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FEATURE ARTICLE: PHYSICAL VIOLENCE
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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