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4906.0 - Personal Safety, Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2013   
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Contents >> Introduction

INTRODUCTION

This release presents results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), conducted from February to December 2012. The survey collected information about the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women since the age of 15, including their experience of violence in the 12 months prior to the survey. It also collected detailed information about men's and women's experience of current and previous partner violence, lifetime experience of stalking, physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15 and general feelings of safety.

The statistics presented in this release are indicative of the extensive range of data available from the survey and demonstrate the analytical potential of the survey results. Full details about all the information collected in the 2012 PSS are provided in the Data Item List which can be accessed in the Downloads Tab of this publication. Additional information may be made available by request, on a fee for service basis, through the ABS Information Consultancy, or on the Confidentialised Unit Record File which is expected to be released in March 2014.

This release provides information to assist users in interpreting and using the results of the survey, including descriptions of the survey design and methodology, and explanatory notes on the quality of estimates.

This is the second time the Personal Safety Survey has been conducted. The PSS was last run by the ABS in 2005. The PSS is based on the design of the Women's Safety Survey (cat. no. 4128.0) which was conducted in 1996, and has been adapted to include men's experience of violence. This release includes some comparisons with PSS 2005 and WSS 1996 data where appropriate.

The ABS would like to thank the people who completed the survey. Their participation has contributed to valuable information that will help to inform public debate about violence and will help further development of policies and programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of violence.


BACKGROUND

The PSS meets the need for updated information on the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women in Australia and other related information regarding people's safety at home and in the community that has not been collected since 2005.

The need for data on the prevalence of violence and sexual assault is discussed in The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 - 2022, and in the following ABS Information Papers:


ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the auspices of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010 - 2022, provided funding for the 2012 Personal Safety Survey. A Survey Advisory Group, comprising experts in the field of crime and violence, provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and academics in the field.


INFORMATION COLLECTED IN THE PERSONAL SAFETY SURVEY

A key objective of the Personal Safety Survey was to collect information from men and women aged 18 years and over about their experience of violence since the age of 15. This includes their experience of physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by male and female perpetrators (for five key perpetrator types: current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or date, other known man or woman, and stranger). This provides information on the prevalence of the different types of violence by different perpetrator types.

Where a person had experienced any of these types of violence, more detailed information was then collected for their most recent incident of each of the eight types of violence: physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by a male and by a female perpetrator. This information is used to understand what happens when a person experiences violence by a male or female perpetrator and how this differs depending on the different types of violence.

Where someone had experienced violence by a current partner and/or previous partner they were asked further questions about what happened during the relationship. This information was collected separately for current partner violence and previous partner violence: if someone had experienced violence by more than one previous partner, the information was collected about their most recently violent previous partner only.


KEY DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this survey, the following definitions apply:

Violence is defined as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. Physical violence includes physical assault and/or physical threat. Sexual violence includes sexual assault and/or sexual threat (see below for definitions).

Physical assault involves the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Assaults may have occurred in conjunction with a robbery and includes incidents where a person was assaulted in their line of work (e.g. assaulted while working as a security guard). This includes being: pushed, grabbed or shoved; slapped; kicked, bitten or hit with a fist; hit with an object or something else that could hurt you; beaten; choked; stabbed; shot; or any other type of physical assault which involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Physical assault excludes incidents of sexual assault or threatened sexual assault which also involved physical assault, and excludes incidents that occurred during the course of play on a sporting field. Physical assault also excludes incidents of violence that occurred before the age of 15 - for the purposes of this survey, these are defined as Physical Abuse. If a person experienced physical assault and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a physical assault. If a person experienced sexual assault and physical assault in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

Physical threat is an attempt to inflict physical harm or a threat or suggestion of intent to inflict physical harm, that was made face-to-face where the person believes it was able to and likely to be carried out. Physical threat includes incidents where a person was threatened in their line of work. It excludes: any incident of violence in which the threat was actually carried out and incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field. If a person experienced sexual threat and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual threat.

Sexual Assault is an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, and includes any attempts to do this. This includes rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault (assault with a weapon), indecent assault, penetration by objects, forced sexual activity that did not end in penetration and attempts to force a person into sexual activity. Incidents so defined would be an offence under State and Territory criminal law. Sexual assault excludes unwanted sexual touching - for the purposes of this survey, this is defined as Sexual Harassment. Sexual assault also excludes incidents of violence that occurred before the age of 15 - for the purposes of this survey, these are defined as Sexual Abuse. If a person experienced sexual assault and sexual threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault. If an incident of sexual assault also involved physical assault or threats, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

Sexual threat involves the threat of acts of a sexual nature, that were made face-to-face where the person believes it is able to and likely to be carried out. If a person experienced sexual assault and sexual threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

Partner
The term 'partner' in the PSS is used to describe a person the respondent lives with, or lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship. For the purposes of the PSS current and previous partner have been defined as follows:

Current partner: The person the respondent currently lives with in a married or de facto relationship.

Previous partner: A person the respondent lived with at some point in a married or de facto relationship from whom the respondent is now separated. This includes a partner the respondent was living with at the time of experiencing violence; or a partner the respondent was no longer living with at the time of experiencing violence.

Partner violence
Refers to any incident of sexual assault, sexual threat, physical assault or physical threat by a current and/or previous partner. Partner violence does not include violence by a "boyfriend/girlfriend or date". For the PSS a boyfriend/girlfriend or date refers to a person the respondent dated, or was intimately involved with but did not live with.

For further definitions refer to the Explanatory Notes and Glossary.


MEASURING VIOLENCE

There are no generally agreed or accepted standards for defining what constitutes violence. In developing the concepts and definitions used in the survey, the ABS was assisted by a Survey Advisory Group, which included members with legal and crime research backgrounds. The definitions used were based on actions which would be considered as offences under State and Territory criminal law.

The ABS publishes data relating to crime from different sources. Different methodologies result in different statistics. For example, statistics from police records are different from those reported in household surveys because not all incidents are reported to the police. Also, responses in surveys may be affected by the ways in which questions are asked. Some of these measurement issues are discussed in: Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey data, June 2011 (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001). Appendix 1, which can be accessed in the Explanatory Notes Tab, provides information about the comparability of the PSS with other data sources.


SURVEY INTERVIEW PROCEDURES

Measuring violence in the community through household surveys is a complex task. It tests people's memories by asking about events that occurred in the past, which may have been traumatic and which may have involved people closely related to them. The accuracy of the statistics can be affected if respondents feel threatened by the act of providing information or if they are concerned that the information might be used against the perpetrator. Through consultation with experts in the field and testing, the ABS gave much consideration to the type of information collected and the manner in which it was collected.

While the survey was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, participation in the survey was not compulsory. Interviews were conducted with persons aged 18 years and over who were usual residents of randomly selected households. Only one person in each selected household was eligible to be included in the survey.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information being collected, special procedures were used to ensure the safety of those participating and the reliability of the data provided. A specific requirement was that interviews were conducted in private, thus ensuring confidentiality of any information disclosed. Further, once the questions regarding a person's experience of violence were reached in the interview, respondents were informed of the sensitive nature of the upcoming questions and their permission to continue with the interview was sought. In addition, no proxy interviews were conducted. The use of specially trained interviewers ensured that rapport could be established with respondents and that the relevant concepts and definitions could be explained as necessary (for further information regarding survey interview procedures refer to the Explanatory Notes).

A response rate of 57% was achieved with 17,050 men and women completing the survey questionnaire nationally.


DATA QUALITY

Estimates with a relative standard error (RSE) of less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes, and only estimates of such precision are referred to in the text of this release (unless otherwise noted). Due to the relatively small numbers of persons experiencing certain types of violence, some of the estimates provided within the data cubes are subject to very high sampling error.

All differences and changes mentioned have been tested for statistical significance with a 95% level of confidence that there is a real difference in the two populations being tested. To determine whether there is a statistical difference between any other two estimates, significance testing should be undertaken. For further information, refer to the Technical Note.

For further detailed information about the survey, refer to the Explanatory Notes or Users' Guide which will be released in March 2014.

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