Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
1301.0 - Yearbook Chapter, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
   Page tools: Print Print Page RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

FEATURE ARTICLE: PHYSICAL VIOLENCE

Physical violence can arise in a wide range of social interactions, as a result of often complex interplays between individual and societal factors. The effects of such violence can be widespread and have effects on individuals, communities and the overall social and economic environment. The incidence of violent crime raises much community concern due in part to the potential severity of the consequences that can arise from violent incidents, but also from fear that it may affect individuals personally, or loved ones, friends, or acquaintances. High crime rates can reduce levels of community trust, confidence and freedom.

A Personal Safety Survey of people aged 18 years and over was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics during the period August to December 2005. The survey contains information about men's and women's feelings of safety and experience of different types of violence, harassment and stalking since the age of 15 years. Violence in this survey comprises actual and attempted physical assault or sexual assault. The survey also provides more indepth information about the characteristics of the victims, perpetrators and incidents.

Diagram S13.1 shows the experiences of violence for men and women in the 12 months prior to interview in the period August to December 2005.

S13.1 Experience of violence(a)
Diagram: 13.1 Experience of violence(a)


While violence as a whole contains these many facets, this article focuses on the experience of physical assault.


Characteristics of people who experienced physical assault

Men and women experience different levels of physical assault. In the 12 months prior to the survey men were twice as likely as women to be victims of physical assault (6% or 485,000 men and 3% or 242,000 women).

In 2005, over two-thirds (68%) of the people who experienced physical assault in the 12 months prior to interview were under 35 years of age. Men and women aged 18-24 years were more likely than other age groups to have experienced recent physical assault, with 21% of men and 7% of women in this age group having reported at least one incident in the last 12 months (graph S13.2).

Men who were unemployed were more likely to have experienced physical assault than those employed (14% compared with 7%). This was also the case for women, as 9% of unemployed women had experienced physical assault compared with 4% of employed women.

S13.2 Proportions of persons who experienced violence(a), by age
Graph: 13.2 Proportions of persons who experienced violence(a), by age


Types of perpetrators

Most men (89% or 430,000) who had been physically assaulted said that the perpetrator was a man. A smaller proportion (16% or 79,500) of men were physically assaulted by a woman. Almost half (48%) of the men physically assaulted by a man said that there was more than one person involved in the incident. In contrast, 90% of men physically assaulted by a woman said there was only one person involved.

Of women who experienced physical assault, 81% (195,000) said that the perpetrator was a man, with 27% (66,500) reporting that the perpetrator was a woman. The majority (93%) of women physically assaulted by a man reported that there was only one person involved in the incident, as did 79% of those physically assaulted by a woman.


Relationship to perpetrator

Around two-thirds (66%) of men physically assaulted during the last 12 months said that the perpetrator was a stranger (table S13.3). In contrast, women were less likely to be physically assaulted by a stranger (22%) than by someone they knew (82%). Almost a third (31%) of women physically assaulted said that the perpetrator was a current or previous partner, and 37% reported their attacker as being a family member or friend.

S13.3 EXPERIENCE OF PHYSICAL ASSAULT(a), By relationship to perpetrator(b)

Males
Females

Partner %
*4.4
30.5
Family or friends(c) %
17.4
36.8
Other known persons(d) %
21.2
20.5
Stranger %
65.7
21.9
Total(e) %
100.0
100.0
Persons who experienced physical assault '000
485.4
242.0

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
(a) In the 12 months prior to interview in August -December 2005.
(b) Includes both male and female perpetrators.
(c) Includes boyfriend, girlfriend or date.
(d) Includes ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
(e) Components do not add to total as some respondents experienced assault by more than one type of perpetrator.
Source: Personal Safety, Australia (4906.0).



Characteristics of incidents

The most common form of physical assault by a male perpetrator reported by both men and women was being pushed or grabbed (66% and 76% respectively) (graph S13.4). Almost half (47%) of the men and 32% of the women had been kicked, bitten or hit with a fist. A small proportion of men and women had been choked, stabbed with a knife or shot with a gun (11% and 14% respectively).

S13.4 Nature of physical assault reported(a)(b)
Graph: 13.4 Nature of physical assault reported(a)(b)


Location of incident

In keeping with the high proportion of men physically assaulted by a stranger, men most frequently reported that they were physically assaulted by a man in the open (35% or 149,000) or at licensed premises (34%). Of those who were physically assaulted by a woman, just over three-quarters (77% or 60,900) said that this violence occurred in their home or another person's home (graph S13.5).

The most common location where women were physically assaulted by a man was in their home or another person's home (64% or 125,000). This was also the case where the perpetrator of the physical assault was a woman (38% or 25,300).

S13.5 Location of physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)
Graph: 13.5 Location of physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)


Consequences of assault

In 2005, almost half (47% or 203,000) of the men who were physically assaulted by a male perpetrator during the 12 months prior to interview in the period August to December 2005 were injured. Among women physically assaulted by a man, over half (55% or 107,000) reported being injured. Bruises were the most common type of injury inflicted in the physical assault, reported by 77% of men and 89% of women (graph S13.6).

As a result of injuries, or even the anxiety or fear caused by violence, a person's life may change in a variety of ways, ranging from changes to social and leisure activities such as playing organised sport, neglect of relationships with people, or altered sleeping patterns. Over half (55%) of the men who were physically assaulted by a male perpetrator reported having changed at least one such aspect of their life because of injury or fear. Over two-thirds (70%) of women who were physically assaulted, reported that they had been affected in this way.

Violence takes an economic toll on society through absenteeism from work and lost productivity. Similar proportions of men and women who were physically assaulted by a male perpetrator had taken time off work as a result of the assault (10% and 11% respectively).

S13.6 Consequences of physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)
Graph: 13.6 Consequences of physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)


Responses to assault

Significantly more men (68%) than women (52%) who were physically assaulted by a male perpetrator during the 12 months prior to interview in the survey, reported that they did not consider this violence to be a crime (graph S13.7).

A significantly higher proportion of men (90%) reported that they had not sought professional help after being physically assaulted by a male perpetrator, compared with women (75%).

Rates of reporting to police for personal crimes like assault are quite low compared with reporting rates for property crimes such as motor vehicle theft. Many incidents of violence are not reported to the police. In 2005, 65% of men physically assaulted by a male perpetrator said that the incident was not reported to the police (by them or by anyone else). A similar proportion of women (64%) said that the police were not told of the physical assault.

The most common main reason given by men for not reporting their experience of physical assault by a male perpetrator was that they did not consider it a serious offence (43% or 120,000 of those who said the police were not told). The most frequent main reason given by women was that they felt they could deal with it themselves (30% or 36,900).

S13.7 Selected responses to physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)
Graph: 13.7 Selected responses to physical assault by a male perpetrator(a)

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window

Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.