4906.0 - Personal Safety, Australia, 2016  
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EXPERIENCE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER

The 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) collected information about men’s and women’s experiences of emotional abuse by a current and/or previous partner since the age of 15.

Emotional abuse occurs when a person is subjected to certain behaviours or actions that are aimed at preventing or controlling their behaviour, causing 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.

Some examples of behaviours used to define the concept of emotional abuse in the 2016 PSS include:
  • Controlling or trying to control a person from contacting family, friends or community.
  • Constantly insulting a person to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated (e.g. put downs).
  • Shouting, yelling or verbally abusing a person to intimidate them.
  • Lying to a person’s child/children with the intent of turning their children against them.
  • Threatening to take a person’s child/children away from them.

For a full list of behaviours collected in the 2016 PSS used for the PSS definition of emotional abuse and further information on emotional abuse, refer to the Partner Emotional Abuse page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

The term 'partner' is used to describe a person the respondent currently lives with, or has lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship. This relationship is referred to in some tables as co-habiting partner. Data reported about emotional abuse by a partner does not include emotional abuse by a boyfriend/girlfriend or date or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

Respondents were asked about any experiences of emotional abuse by both a current partner and a previous partner.

A ‘current partner’ is a person who, at the time of the survey, was living with the respondent in a marriage or de-facto relationship.

A ‘previous partner’ is a person who lived with the respondent at some point in a marriage or de facto relationship, but who was no longer living with the respondent at the time of the survey. This includes:
  • a partner who was emotionally abusive during the relationship, but the relationship has now ended
  • a partner who was not emotionally abusive during the relationship, but has been since the relationship ended
  • a partner who was emotionally abusive both during and after the relationship.

If a respondent had more than one emotionally abusive previous partner, the PSS only asked them for detailed information about their most recently emotionally abusive previous partner.

Note: The definitions of current and previous partner for the PSS are based on the living arrangements at the time of the survey. This is irrespective of whether the respondent considers their partner to be a current or previous partner, or what the living arrangements may have been at the time of any incident.


EXPERIENCE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER SINCE THE AGE OF 15

Almost one in four women (23% or 2.2 million) experienced emotional abuse by a current and/or previous partner since the age of 15, compared to just over one in six men (16% or 1.4 million). Refer to Table 27.

Since the age of 15:
  • women and men reported experiencing similar rates of emotional abuse by a current partner (6.1% or 575,400 women and 5.2% or 473,600 men)
  • about one in five women (18% or 1.7 million) reported experiencing emotional abuse by a previous partner, compared to around one in eight men (12% or 1 million).

Graph Image for PERSONS AGED 18 YEARS AND OVER, Experienced emotional abuse (a) by partner type and sex

Footnote(s): (a) Experience of emotional abuse since the age of 15. (b) People may experience emotional abuse by a current and a previous partner. Components therefore may not add to the total.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2016



EXPERIENCE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PARTNER IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS

In the 12 months prior to the survey, women and men were just as likely to report experiencing emotional abuse by a current and/or previous partner (4.8% or 451,500 women and 4.2% or 381,200 men). Refer to Table 1.

In the 12 months prior to the survey:
  • 3.2% of women (298,700) and 2.9% of men (265,800) reported experiencing emotional abuse by a current partner
  • 1.7% of women (161,200) and 1.4% of men (125,400) reported experiencing emotional abuse by a previous partner.


TYPES OF EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE BEHAVIOURS EXPERIENCED

Note: In addition to current partner, only data for the most recently emotionally abusive previous partner was collected. Therefore the data may not be representative of all experiences related to emotionally abusive previous partners.

Refer to Table 28.

Current partner Endnote 1

Women who had experienced emotional abuse by a current partner since the age 15 were more likely than men to experience:
  • Being shouted at, yelled at or verbally abused with the intent to intimidate them (58% or 334,600 women, and 37% or 177,100 men)
  • Being constantly insulted in order to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated (32% or 181,800 women, and 22% or 105,600 men).

A similar proportion of men (21% or 97,100) and women (23% or 131,300) reported that their partner had controlled or tried to control them from contacting family, friends or community.

Graph Image for PERSONS WHO EXPERIENCED EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A CURRENT PARTNER (a), Types of emotional abuse behaviours (b)(c) by sex

Footnote(s): (a) Persons who experienced emotional abuse by their current partner since the age of 15. (b) Not all types of emotional abuse behaviours shown. (c) More than one emotional abuse behaviour may be reported. Therefore components may sum to more than 100% and cannot be summed to produce totals. (d) Shouted, yelled or verbally abused them to intimidate them. (e) Constantly insulted them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated. (f) Controlled or tried to control them from contacting family, friends or community.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2016



Previous partner Endnote 1

Of the estimated 1.7 million women who had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner since the age of 15, 63% (1.1 million) reported that their most recently emotionally abusive previous partner shouted, yelled or verbally abused them to intimidate them. In comparison, of the estimated 1 million men who had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner, 46% (484,200) reported that their previous partner shouted, yelled or verbally abused them to intimidate them.

Women were also more likely than men to have experienced their previous partner constantly insulting them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated. An estimated 59% of women (1 million) who had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner reported this behaviour compared to 36% of men (373,300).

Women were more likely than men to have experienced their previous partner threatening or trying to commit suicide. An estimated 25% of women (414,600) who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner reported this behaviour compared to 16% of men (169,700).

Men and women who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner reported at similar rates that their previous partner threatened to take their children away from them (27% or 287,500 men and 24% or 406,400 women).

Men were more likely than women to have experienced their previous partner lying to their children with the intent of turning the children against them, with an estimated 39% of men (403,100) and 25% of women (425,000).

Graph Image for PERSONS WHO EXPERIENCED EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PREVIOUS PARTNER (a), Types of emotional abuse behaviours (b)(c) by sex

Footnote(s): (a) Most recently emotionally abusive previous partner since the age of 15. (b) Not all types of emotional abuse behaviours shown. (c) More than one emotional abuse behaviour may be reported. Therefore components may sum to more than 100% and cannot be summed to produce totals. (d) Shouted, yelled or verbally abused them to intimidate them. (e) Constantly insulted them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated. (f) Lied to their child/ren with the intent of turning them against them. (g) Threatened or tried to commit suicide. (h) Threatened to take their children away from them.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2016



Women were more likely than men to experience controlling behaviours by their most recently emotionally abusive previous partner. This includes:
  • controlling their contact with family, friends or community (50% of women (838,500) compared to 42% of men (435,100))
  • controlling or trying to control where they went or who they saw (46% of women (783,000) compared to 32% of men (330,500))
  • controlling them knowing about, having access to or making decisions about household money (38% of women (635,000) compared to 22% of men (233,600))
  • controlling or trying to control them from working or earning money (22% of women (372,700) compared to 11% of men (116,200)).

A similar proportion of women and men reported that their previous partner controlled or tried to control their income or assets (27% or 499,600 women and 22% or 231,700 men).

Graph Image for PERSONS WHO EXPERIENCED EMOTIONAL ABUSE BY A PREVIOUS PARTNER(a), Controlling emotional abuse behaviours(b)(c) by sex

Footnote(s): (a) Most recently emotionally abusive previous partner since the age of 15. (b) Not all types of controlling emotional abuse behaviours shown. (c) More than one emotional abuse behaviour may be reported. Therefore components may sum to more than 100% and cannot be summed to produce totals. (d) Controlled or tried to control them from contacting family, friends or community. (e) Controlled or tried to control where they went or who they saw. (f) Controlled or tried to control them from knowing about, having access to or making decisions about household money. (g) Controlled or tried to control them from working or earning money.

Source(s): Personal Safety Survey, 2016



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

Women were more likely than men to experience fear or anxiety due to emotional abuse by both a current partner and a previous partner. Refer to Table 29.

Women’s experience of anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by a partner
  • Almost six in ten women (59% or 338,100) who experienced emotional abuse by a current partner experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.
  • Just over seven in ten women (72% or 1.2 million) who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.

Men’s experience of anxiety or fear due to emotional abuse by a partner
  • Just over two in five men (41% or 196,200) who experienced emotional abuse by a current partner experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.
  • Similarly, just over two in five men (43% or 452,200) who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner experienced anxiety or fear due to the emotional abuse.


ENDNOTES

Endnote 1

People may have experienced more than one type of emotionally abusive behaviour by a partner. Therefore behaviours may sum to more than 100% and cannot be summed to produce totals.