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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 >> Experience of emotional abuse by a partner

EXPERIENCE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER

Emotional abuse occurs when a person is subjected to certain behaviours or actions that are aimed at preventing or controlling their behaviour with the intent to cause them emotional harm or fear. These behaviours are characterised in nature by their intent to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate the person they are aimed at. They are generally repeated behaviours and include psychological, social, economic and verbal abuse (see Endnote 1 for further details of how emotional abuse was defined, and a list of the behaviours included in the 2012 PSS).

The 2012 PSS collected information about a person's experience of emotional abuse by a current partner and by a male and/or female previous partner (Refer to Endnote 2 for definitions of Current and Previous partner).

Where a person had experienced emotional abuse by more than one male previous partner, the information relates to the male previous partner who had most recently emotionally abused them. Similarly, where a person had experienced emotional abuse by more than one female previous partner the information relates to the female previous partner who had most recently emotionally abused them.

While it is acknowledged that a person may have experienced emotional abuse by someone other than a current or previous partner, information about emotional abuse by other persons was not collected in the 2012 PSS.


PREVALENCE OF EXPERIENCE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER

Table 32 shows men's and women's experience of emotional abuse by a current and/or previous partner. It is possible that a person may have experienced emotional abuse by both a current and a previous partner, or by both a male and female previous partner. Where a person has experienced emotional abuse by more than one type of partner, they are counted separately for each type of partner but are only counted once in the aggregated totals. Components therefore may not add to the totals.

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO EXPERIENCED EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER, Since the age of 15(a)

Footnote(s): (a)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.

Source(s): Personal Safety, Australia



Women are more likely than men to have experienced emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15. In 2012 an estimated 25% (2,142,600) of all women aged 18 years and over and 14% (1,221,100) of all men aged 18 years and over had experienced emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15 (refer Table 1).

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO EXPERIENCED EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER, Since the age of 15, By type of partner(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Where a person has experienced emotional abuse by both a current and previous partner/s, they are counted separately for each perpetrator type but are counted only once in the aggregated total. (b) The person the respondent currently lives with in a married or de facto relationship. (c) 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.

Source(s): Personal Safety, Australia



Experience of emotional abuse by a partner - since the age of 15

Women were more likely than men to have experienced emotional abuse by their current partner since the age of 15. (Refer Table 32)

Current partner
  • An estimated 392,100 women (4.5% of all women) had experienced emotional abuse by their current partner since the age of 15.
  • An estimated 248,000 men (2.9% of all men) had experienced emotional abuse by their current partner since the age of 15.

Women were also more likely than men to have experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner since the age of 15.

Previous partner
  • An estimated 1,840,600 women (21% of all women) had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner since the age of 15.
  • An estimated 1,024,500 men (12% of all men) had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner since the age of 15.


Experience of emotional abuse by a partner - during the last 12 months

Similar patterns of men's and women's experience of emotional abuse by a partner were observed for those who had experienced emotional abuse in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Women were more likely than men to have experienced emotional abuse by their current partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. Women were also more likely than men to have experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner in the 12 months prior to the survey (Refer Table 32).


EXPERIENCE OF ANXIETY OR FEAR DUE TO EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY SEX OF PARTNER - SINCE THE AGE OF 15

The 2012 PSS also collected information about the consequences of men's and women's experience of emotional abuse since the age of 15. This included whether a person experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse (for each of the different types of partners: male/female current partner and male/female previous partner). (Refer to Endnote 3 for a definition of anxiety or fear). Table 33 shows men's and women's experience of anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by the sex of partner.

The consequences of current partner and previous partner emotional abuse are not able to be added to produce a total for consequences of "partner emotional abuse". Conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the consequences for current and previous partner emotional abuse, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the type of partner. This would also double count all persons who have experienced emotional abuse by both a current and a male or female previous partner. (Refer to Endnote 4 for an example).

Due to the relatively small numbers of men and women who experience emotional abuse by a current or previous partner of the same sex, many of the detailed estimates for a person's experience of emotional abuse by a partner of the same sex are subject to very high sampling error and are generally considered too unreliable for general use (for further details refer to the Technical Note). For this reason only data relating to emotional abuse by partner of the opposite sex to the respondent have been outlined in the commentary.

Men's experience of anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by a female partner

For men, whether they experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse differed depending on the type of partner.

When men experienced emotional abuse by a female previous partner, they were not likely to have experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.
  • An estimated 458,600 men (46% of the 996,800 men who had experienced emotional abuse by a female previous partner) had experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse

There was no statistically significant difference for men who had and had not experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by a female current partner. Refer to Endnote 5 for an explanation of significance testing.

Women's experience of anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by a male partner

When women experienced emotional abuse by a male partner, they were likely to have experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.
  • An estimated 1,382,600 women (76% of the 1,811,800 women who had experienced emotional abuse by a male previous partner) had experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse
  • An estimated 243,700 women (62% of the 390,200 women who had experienced emotional abuse by a male current partner) had experienced anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse

A more detailed analysis of Emotional Abuse, such as the characteristics and frequency of Emotional Abuse, using data from the 2012 Personal Safety Survey has been published in the ABS publication Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0).

ENDNOTES

Endnote 1
For the PSS, a person was considered to have experienced emotional abuse where they reported they had been subjected to or experienced one or more of the following behaviours (that were repeated with the intent to prevent or control their behaviour and were intended to cause them emotional harm or fear):
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from contacting family, friends or community
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from using the telephone, Internet or family car
  • Monitored their whereabouts (e.g.. constant phone calls)
  • Controlled or tried to control where they went or who they saw
  • Stopped or tried to stop them knowing about or having access to household money
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from working or earning money
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from studying
  • Deprived them of basic needs such as food, shelter, sleep or assistive aids
  • Damaged, destroyed or stole any of their property
  • Constantly insulted them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated
  • Lied to their child/ren with the intent of turning them against them
  • Lied to other family members or friends with the intent of turning them against them
  • Threatened to take their child/ren away from them
  • Threatened to harm their child/ren
  • Threatened to harm other family members or friends
  • Threatened to harm any of their pets
  • Harmed any of their pets
  • Threatened or tried to commit suicide

Emotional abuse excludes:
  • Nagging - a respondent whose spouse nagged them was not defined as being emotionally abused unless the respondent perceived this behaviour caused them emotional harm or fear.
  • A respondent who has a substance abuse, gambling or compulsive shopping issue (etc), whose spouse restricted their access to money, the car, or the internet, are not defined as being emotionally abused unless the respondent perceived that these restrictions caused them emotional harm or fear.

Refer to the Glossary for further details about the definition of Emotional Abuse.

Endnote 2
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 in 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.

Endnote 3
Anxiety or fear is defined as:
  • Anxiety: Distress or uneasiness of mind resulting from apprehension of danger or misfortune. The anxiety or worry may be accompanied by restlessness or feeling 'on edge', difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension or sleep disturbance.
  • Fear: Includes fear of reprisals or the recurrence of a similar incident by either the perpetrator or another person.

Endnote 4
As a person's actions will differ depending on the type of partner they have experienced emotional abuse by, conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the characteristics for current and previous partner emotional abuse, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the type of partner. For example, if a person had experienced anxiety or fear due the emotional abuse by their current partner but had not experienced anxiety or fear due the emotional abuse by their most recently emotionally abuse male previous partner, it is impossible to calculate an estimate of whether or not this person has experienced anxiety or fear due to "partner emotional abuse" - they both have and haven't. For further details refer to 'Interpretation of results' in the Explanatory Notes.

Endnote 5
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.


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