Sexual Violence - Victimisation

Statistics about sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse, including characteristics of victim-survivors, victimisation rates, and police reporting.

Released
24/08/2021

Key statistics

  • 2.2 million women (23%) and 718,000 men (8.0%) aged 18 years and over have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, including childhood sexual abuse and/or sexual assault since the age of 15
  • The prevalence of sexual assault increased between 2012 and 2016 for women but not for men

About this release

This article is the first in a new series exploring the nature and prevalence of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment in Australia. Topics covered include changes in prevalence over time, victimisation risk factors, immediate and long-term impacts on victims, and criminal justice outcomes for offenders.

The focus of this first article is the experiences of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse victims. It brings together data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Personal Safety Survey and the Recorded Crime – Victims collection. Each section focuses on a different aspect of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse victimisation. These include:

  • Key statistics for experiences of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse by key perpetrator types, and changes in prevalence over time
  • Socio-demographic characteristics of persons who experienced sexual assault
  • Details of the most recent incident of sexual assault and characteristics of the first incident of childhood sexual abuse
  • Contacting the police about the most recent incident of sexual assault
  • Police recorded victims of sexual assault, including time to report to police
  • Help-seeking behaviours and the impacts of sexual assault on victims

Subsequent articles will focus on criminal justice outcomes for sexual assault perpetrators and sexual harassment.

The ABS acknowledges the lives and experiences of individuals affected by sexual violence who are represented in this report. Some people may find parts of this content confronting or distressing. Recommended support services include: 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732, Lifeline – 13 11 14.

Personal Safety Survey

The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) is a household survey that collects information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced.

The PSS statistics presented in this article are derived from the following data items collected in the 2016 survey:

  • Whether experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months and since the age of 15
  • Characteristics of the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the previous ten years (women only)
  • Socio-demographic characteristics of sexual assault victims (women only)
  • Whether experienced sexual abuse by an adult before the age of 15
  • Whether witnessed violence towards a parent by a partner before the age of 15
  • General feelings of safety

Prevalence data from the 2016 survey are also compared with results from the 2012 survey to examine changes over time.

For ease of reading the survey estimates have been rounded to the nearest thousand.

Figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. All comparisons discussed have been tested for statistical significance, unless otherwise stated. For more information about relative standard error and significance testing refer to the Personal Safety, Australia Technical Note.

For more information about the survey methodology, refer to Personal Safety, Australia methodology.

In the PSS, sexual assault is defined as an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, including 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, which for the purposes of the survey is defined as sexual harassment.

Sexual abuse is defined as any act by an adult involving a child (under the age of 15 years) in sexual activity beyond their understanding, or contrary to currently accepted community standards. It excludes emotional abuse and incidents of sexual abuse perpetrated by someone under the age of 18.

For more definitions of the terms used throughout the article, refer to the Glossary section.

Recorded Crime – Victims

Data from the ABS Recorded Crime – Victims collection provides nationally comparable statistics about victims of selected personal and household offences that came to the attention of and were recorded by state and territory police agencies across Australia during a calendar year reference period. It includes victims of all ages.

The Recorded Crime – Victims sexual assault statistics presented in this article cover the period 2010 to 2019 or 2014 to 2019, depending on the data item, and include the following data items:

  • Sex (2010 to 2019)
  • Age at the date of incident (2014 to 2019)
  • Relationship of the offender to the victim (2010 to 2019)
  • Family and domestic related offence flag (2014 to 2019)
  • Location (2010 to 2019)
  • Time to report to police (2014 to 2019)

For more information about the collection methodology, refer to Recorded Crime – Victims methodology.

In the Recorded Crime – Victims collection, sexual assault is defined as physical contact, or intent of contact, of a sexual nature directed toward another person where that person does not give consent, gives consent as a result of intimidation or deception, or consent is proscribed (i.e. the person is legally deemed incapable of giving consent because of youth, temporary/permanent (mental) incapacity or there is a familial relationship). 

For more definitions of the terms used throughout the article, refer to the Glossary section.

Summary of findings

Prevalence

  • Women were more likely to experience sexual assault than men: 17% of women (1.6 million) and 4.3% of men (385,000) have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
  • Both women and men were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger. For women, the most common perpetrator was an intimate partner.
  • 60% of women and 51% of men who experienced sexual assault experienced it more than once.
  • 11% of women (1 million) and 4.6% of men (412,000) experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known person who was not a family member.
  • 2.2 million women (23%) and 718,000 men (8.0%) have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime (sexual assault since the age of 15 or sexual abuse before the age of 15.[1]

Sexual assault by an intimate partner

  • Women were eight times more likely than men to experience sexual assault by an intimate partner since the age of 15 (8.4% of women compared with 1.1% of men).

Time series

  • The PSS found the rate of sexual assault increased between 2012 and 2016 for women but not for men.

Characteristics of persons experiencing sexual assault

  • Sexual assault prevalence rates were higher for younger women, women in financial hardship, women living with disability, and women experiencing lower levels of life satisfaction.
  • Women and men who witnessed violence towards a parent by a partner before the age of 15 were more likely than those who did not witness violence to experience sexual assault as adults.
  • Women and men who experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 were more likely than those who did not experience sexual abuse to experience sexual assault as adults.

Characteristics of sexual assault incidents

In the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator experienced by women:

  • 50% believed alcohol or another substance contributed
  • 70% were sexually assaulted at a residential location
  • 26% perceived the incident as a crime at the time

Characteristics of childhood sexual abuse incidents

In the first incident of sexual abuse experienced by women before the age of 15 (1 million):

  • 48% were between 5 and 9 years of age
  • The perpetrator was most commonly a known person who was not a family member (42%)

In the first incident of sexual abuse experienced by men before the age of 15 (412,000):

  • 48% were between 10 and 14 years of age
  • The perpetrator was most commonly a known person who was not a family member (66%)

Characteristics of women who reported sexual assault to police

  • 13% of women reported their most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police, but were more likely to do so if they were physically injured and consulted a doctor or health care professional about their injuries.
  • 34% of women who did not report the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police said it was because they did not regard the incident as a serious offence.

Sexual assault recorded by police

Of the 144,797 victims of sexual assault recorded by police agencies between 2014 and 2019:

  • 83% were female
  • 63% were under the age of 18
  • 48% of female victims and 39% of male victims reported the incident to police within a week of the incident occurring.
  • 19% of male victims and 5.9% of female victims said the incident occurred 20 years or more ago.

Family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by police

  • 34% of sexual assault victims recorded by police between 2014 and 2019 were family and domestic related.
  • 91% of male and 67% of female victims of family and domestic related sexual assault were under the age of 18 at the date of incident.
  • The most common offender for both male (88%) and female (60%) victims of family and domestic related sexual assault was a family member who was not an intimate partner.
  • Intimate partners were responsible for a larger proportion of family and domestic related sexual assaults experienced by women (34%) compared with men (7.7%).

Advice/support and impacts on victims

  • 50% of women sought advice or support after the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator, most commonly from a friend or family member (71%).
  • 57% of women experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator.
  • Both men and women who experienced sexual assault were more likely to feel unsafe in the community than those who did not experience sexual assault.

[1] Where a person has experienced both sexual assault as an adult and childhood sexual abuse, they are only counted once in the aggregated total.

Measuring sexual assault

Concepts relating to the occurrence and characteristics of sexual assault can be challenging to measure. Results obtained from alternative data sources may present different pictures of sexual assault in the community, as the collections use different but equally valid methods to produce crime victimisation indicators. These alternative data sources should be considered as complimentary rather than competing sources of statistical information.

This article draws on data obtained through both survey and administrative data collections. While the data sources measure closely related concepts, in practice they can produce different results due to differences in scope, methodology, and statistical counting rules. The key differences between the Personal Safety Survey (PSS) and the Recorded Crime – Victims collection (derived from police statistics) are summarised below. These should be considered when interpreting the statistics presented in this article.

  • The PSS uses a sample of the adult population to estimate the prevalence of sexual assault in the community. The survey asks respondents aged 18 years and over living in private dwellings about any experiences of sexual assault since the age of 15, both police reported and unreported. Police statistics include only those incidents that came to the attention of and were recorded by state and territory police agencies.
  • Counting rules differ between the two collections. In the PSS, if a respondent has experienced sexual assault they are counted as one victim, regardless of the number of times it occurred. In recorded police statistics, the same person may be counted as a victim more than once if they have experienced and reported multiple incidents of sexual assault within the reference period.
  • Across the previous three survey cycles (2005, 2012 and 2016), the PSS has found that the majority of sexual assault incidents experienced by adults are not reported to police. For example, the 2016 PSS found that 13% of women reported their most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police. As such, police statistics only present a subset of all sexual assault victims. While the majority of sexual assault incidents are not brought to the attention of police, official police statistics are an important complementary source of information about sexual assault as they provide further insights into the characteristics of victims and incidents, and outcomes following police investigations.
  • Police statistics include sexual assault victims of all ages (both adults and minors) who come to the attention of police within a 12-month reference period. The age scope of the Personal Safety Survey is persons aged 18 years and over, and includes experiences of sexual assault since the age of 15 only. The age profile of sexual assault victims therefore differs between the two data sources, which can produce different results regarding the characteristics of sexual assault victims, incidents, and relationship to perpetrators.
  • In addition to asking respondents about experiences of sexual assault since the age of 15, the PSS also asks respondents about experiences of sexual abuse before the age of 15, perpetrated by an adult. This is a retrospective measure and does not capture current rates of child sexual abuse in the community. While there is overlap, sexual assault and sexual abuse are treated as separate constructs in the survey.
  • There remains a critical data gap around the prevalence of unreported sexual assault for young persons, as this information is not captured in police or survey statistics. Police statistics show that the majority of sexual assault victims that come to the attention of police are young persons. While the PSS retrospectively measures the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse, it does not collect information about experiences of sexual assault for persons under the age of 18.

Prevalence of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse

Sexual assault

Prevalence of sexual assault since the age of 15

The 2016 PSS found that 2 million Australians (11%) have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, including:

  • 17% of women (1.6 million)
  • 4.3% of men (385,000)

Multiple victimisation

An estimated 953,000 women (10%) and 196,000 men (2.2%) experienced more than one incident of sexual assault since the age of 15.

Prevalence of sexual assault since the age of 15 by perpetrator type

Where a person has experienced sexual assault by multiple perpetrators, they are counted separately for each perpetrator type (i.e. sexual assault by a cohabiting partner and sexual assault by a stranger) but are only counted once in the aggregated totals.

The survey found that since the age of 15, women were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger:

  • 15% of women experienced sexual assault by a known person (1.4 million)
  • 3.7% of women experienced sexual assault by a stranger (347,000)

Prevalence of sexual assault by known perpetrator types since the age of 15:

  • 8.4% of women experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner (791,000)
  • 3.8% of women experienced sexual assault by an acquaintance or neighbour (352,000)
  • 3.0% of women experienced sexual assault by a friend or housemate (280,000)

The survey also found that since the age of 15, men were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger:

  • 3.3% of men experienced sexual assault by a known person (302,000)
  • 1.3% of men experienced sexual assault by a stranger (114,000)

Prevalence of sexual assault by known perpetrator types since the age of 15:

  • 1.1% of men experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner (95,000)
  • 0.8% of men experienced sexual assault by a friend or housemate (71,000)
  • 0.6% of men experienced sexual assault by an acquaintance or neighbour (55,000)
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  1. Includes current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or date, and ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend.

Changes in the 12-month prevalence rate of sexual assault between 2012 and 2016

Changes in the 12-month prevalence rate of sexual assault over time can be influenced by real-world changes in the prevalence of sexual assault, as well as changing attitudes and awareness of family, domestic, and sexual violence more broadly. These changes can impact on people’s ability to recognise sexual assault when it occurs, and their willingness to disclose their experiences to a survey interviewer.

The proportion of women experiencing sexual assault in the 12 months prior to survey increased from 1.0% in 2012 to 1.6% in 2016.

While there was an increase in the 12-month rate of sexual assault for all three perpetrator categories combined (stranger, intimate partner, and known person other than an intimate partner) the increase was only statistically significant for known person other than an intimate partner, which rose from 0.3%* in 2012 to 0.7% in 2016.[1]

There was no statistically significant change in the proportion of men experiencing sexual assault in the previous 12 months between 2012 (0.4%) and 2016 (0.6%).

[1] 12-month sexual assault estimates are associated with higher sample error due to the relatively low prevalence of sexual assault in the community and the short timeframe being considered. The degree of sample error is even higher when examining 12-month sexual assault estimates by perpetrator type, which makes it difficult to measure changes over time for specific perpetrator categories.

Family and domestic related sexual assault

Sexual assault by an intimate partner

An estimated 8.4% of women (791,000) have experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner since the age of 15. This includes:

  • 4.7% (443,000) by a cohabiting partner
  • 3.8% (355,000) by a boyfriend/girlfriend/date

An estimated 1.1% of men (95,000) have experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner since the age of 15. This includes:

  •  0.6% (52,000) by a cohabiting partner
  •  0.6% (53,000) by a boyfriend/girlfriend/date

Sexual assault by a family member other than an intimate partner

An estimated 1.1% (207,000) of persons have experienced sexual assault by a family member other than an intimate partner since the age of 15, including:

  • 1.9% of women (176,000)
  • 0.4%* of men (32,000)

Childhood sexual abuse

Prevalence of sexual abuse before the age of 15

The PSS asks adult respondents about any experiences of sexual abuse before the age of 15 perpetrated by an adult (both reported and unreported). This data is retrospective and does not capture the current prevalence of sexual abuse of children or child-on-child sexual abuse.

Where a person has experienced sexual abuse by multiple perpetrators, they are counted separately for each perpetrator type (i.e. sexual abuse by a family member and sexual abuse by a stranger) but are only counted once in the aggregated totals.

An estimated 11% of women (1 million) experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by:

  • A known person who was not a family member (5.0% or 468,000)
  • A relative or in-law who was not a parent or sibling (3.1% or 294,000)
  • A father/stepfather (1.8% or 172,000)
  • A stranger (1.2% or 116,000)

An estimated 4.6% of men (412,000) experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by:

  • A known person who was not a family member (3.0% or 269,000)
  • A relative or in-law who was not a parent or sibling (0.7% or 63,000)
  • A stranger (0.7% or 62,000)
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Lifetime sexual violence

Prevalence of lifetime sexual violence

An estimated 2.9 million (16%) persons aged 18 years and over have experienced sexual violence (sexual assault since the age of 15 or sexual abuse before the age of 15) in their lifetime, including:

  • 23% of women (2.2 million)
  • 8.0% of men (718,000)

Characteristics of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse

Characteristics of persons experiencing sexual assault

Differences in sexual assault prevalence rates within socio-demographic groups[1][2]

Women belonging to the following socio-demographic groups were more likely to have experienced sexual assault in the 12 months prior to survey in 2016:

  • Women aged 18 to 24 years (4.5%) and 25 to 34 years (3.0%), compared with women aged 35 to 44 years (1.0%*), 45 to 54 years (0.6%*) and 55 years and over (0.4%)
  • Women with an intellectual and/or psychological disability compared with women with no disability at all (5.8% compared with 1.4%)

Women belonging to the following socio-demographic groups were more likely to have experienced sexual assault in the two years prior to survey in 2016:

  • Women who had cash flow problems compared with women who did not have cash flow problems (6.3% compared with 1.7%)[3]
  • Women with moderate life satisfaction compared with women with high life satisfaction (4.4% compared with 2.3%)[4]

Relationship between witnessing violence towards a parent by a partner before the age of 15 and experiences of sexual assault as an adult

Women who witnessed violence towards a parent by a partner before the age of 15 were over twice as likely as women who did not witness such violence to experience sexual assault as adults (33% compared with 14%).

Men who witnessed violence towards a parent by a partner before the age of 15 were over twice as likely as men who did not witness such violence to experience sexual assault as adults (8.6% compared with 3.7%).

[1] Due to the relatively smaller number of men experiencing sexual assault, data was not of sufficient quality for detailed analysis of socio-demographic characteristics of men.

[2] While certain socio-demographic groups are associated with a higher prevalence of sexual assault, a causal relationship cannot be inferred based on the data.

[3] Cash flow problems include one or more of the following: could not pay electricity, gas or telephone bills on time; could not pay mortgage or rent payments on time; could not pay for car registration or insurance on time; could not make minimum payment on credit card; pawned or sold something because they needed cash; went without meals; were unable to heat or cool their home; sought financial assistance from friends or family; sought assistance from welfare or community organisations.

[4] Overall life satisfaction is a summary measure of subjective well-being against a scale ranging from zero through to ten, zero being not at all satisfied and ten completely satisfied. Life satisfaction ratings between 0 and 3 are categorised as low, ratings between 4 and 6 are categorised as moderate, and ratings between 7 and 10 are categorised as high.

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Relationship between experiences of childhood sexual abuse and experiences of sexual assault as an adult

Women who had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 were three times more likely than women who had not experienced sexual abuse to have experienced sexual assault as adults (43% compared with 13%).

Men who had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 were five times more likely than men who had not experienced sexual abuse to have experienced sexual assault as adults (18% compared with 3.4%).

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Characteristics of sexual assault incidents

The PSS asks respondents who have experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the ten years prior to survey in 2016 about the characteristics of the most recent incident.

Characteristics of women’s most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator[1]

Of the 639,000 women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the 10 years prior to survey, in the most recent incident:

  • 87% knew the perpetrator, most commonly an intimate partner (52%)
  • 70% were sexually assaulted at a residential location
  • 50% believed alcohol or another substance contributed to the incident
  • 26% perceived the incident as a crime at the time
  • 42% perceived the incident as wrong but not a crime
  • 22% perceived the incident as something that just happens

[1] Due to the relatively smaller number of men experiencing sexual assault, data was not of sufficient quality for conducting a detailed analysis of incident characteristics for men. Similarly, due to the relatively small number of female perpetrators of sexual assault, data was not of sufficient quality for conducting a detailed analysis of sexual assault incidents perpetrated by females.

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Characteristics of childhood sexual abuse incidents

First incident of sexual abuse before the age of 15

Of the 1 million women who experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15, at the time of the first incident:

  • 12% were aged 0 to 4 years
  • 48% were aged 5 to 9 years
  • 40% were aged 10 to 14

The most common perpetrators were:

  • A known person who was not a family member (42%)
  • A relative or in-law who was not a parent or sibling (27%)
  • A father/stepfather (16%)
  • A stranger (10%)

Of the 412,000 men who experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15, at the time of the first incident:

  • 6.8% were aged 0 to 4 years
  • 45% were aged 5 to 9 years
  • 48% were aged 10 to 14 years

The most common perpetrators were:

  • A known person who was not a family member (66%)
  • A relative or in-law who was not a parent or sibling (14%)
  • A stranger (15%)

Police reporting

Police reporting after women’s most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator[1]

According to the 2016 PSS, of the 639,000 women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the ten years prior to survey, 13% (86,000) contacted the police about the most recent incident.

Women were more likely to report the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police if they:

  • Were physically injured (33% compared with 7.5% of those who were not physically injured)
  • Consulted a doctor or other health professional about the physical injuries (67% compared with 18% of those who did not consult a doctor or other health professional about the physical injuries)
  • Perceived the incident as a crime at the time (32%) compared with if they perceived it as wrong but not a crime (3.7%*) or as something that just happens (10.3%*)

The proportion of women who did not report their most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police varied by perpetrator type:

  • Known person who was not an intimate partner or family member (90%)
  • Intimate partner (87%)
  • Stranger (83%)
  • Family member (51%*)

The most common reasons why women did not report the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator to police were[2]:

  • Did not regard the incident as a serious offence (34%)
  • Felt ashamed or embarrassed (26%)
  • Did not think there was anything the police could do (22%)
  • Did not know or think the incident was a crime (22%)

[1] Due to the relatively smaller number of men experiencing sexual assault, data was not of sufficient quality for conducting a detailed analysis of police reporting for men.

[2] More than one reason may have been provided.

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  1. More than one reason may have been provided.

Police recorded victims of sexual assault

This section presents data for victims of sexual assault that came to the attention of and were recorded by police. This data is drawn from administrative systems used by state and territory police agencies for operational purposes. It includes victims of all ages.

Police recorded sexual assault victimisation rate

Between 2010 and 2019, police agencies recorded 221,751 victims of sexual assault. Most victims (83% or 183,903) were female.

The average police recorded sexual assault victimisation rate over the ten-year period was:

  • 153.9 female victims per 100,000 females
  • 31.2 male victims per 100,000 males

Changes in the police recorded sexual assault victimisation rate between 2010 and 2019

Changes in the police recorded sexual assault victimisation rate over time may be influenced by real-world changes in the prevalence of sexual assault; changing attitudes towards family, domestic, and sexual violence more broadly; and jurisdictional changes in police recording practices, administrative systems, and legislation or policy.

The police recorded sexual assault victimisation rate increased between 2010 and 2019 for both males and females:

  • From 26.1 to 34.8 male victims per 100,000 males
  • From 143.8 to 174.8 female victims per 100,000 females
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Location of police recorded sexual assault incidents

Over the period 2010 to 2019, of the 221,751 police recorded victims of sexual assault:

  • 66% occurred in a residential location[1]
  • 18% occurred in a community location[2]
  • 10% occurred in other location[3]

Age of police recorded sexual assault victims

The majority of both male and female sexual assault victims recorded by police between 2014 and 2019 were under the age of 18 at the date of incident.

Of the 24,541 male victims of sexual assault recorded by police over this period, at the date of incident:

  • 39% were under the age of 10 years
  • 41% were aged 10 to 17 years
  • 19% were aged 18 years and over

Of the 119,589 female victims of sexual assault recorded by police over this period, at the date of incident:

  • 18% were under the age of 10 years
  • 41% were aged 10 to 17 years
  • 40% were aged 18 years and over

[1] Any location containing a permanent or semi-permanent dwelling used for private or commercial residential purposes. This definition may encompass any surrounding land/yard connected to the dwelling, together with any other structures existing at the location.

[2] Any location where the primary activity is the provision of services/facilities for public use including: schools and other educational facilities; hospitals and other health facilities; churches and other religious establishments; car parks, buses, trains, terminals and other transport facilities; police stations, court houses, and other justice facilities; streets and footpaths; open spaces not reserved for specific functions or attached to some other facility.

[3] Any location where the primary function does not fit into either the 'residential' or 'community' categories. This may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location. This includes but is not limited to: administrative/professional; banking; retail; wholesale; manufacturing; agricultural; recreational.

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Relationship of offender to victim

Within the context of national Recorded Crime – Victims police statistics, relationship of offender to victim is defined as the relationship of the alleged offender to the victim as perceived by the victim at the time of the offence. Relationship of offender to victim subcategories may not add to 100% as a small number of victims have unknown relationship of offender to victim information. Relationship of offender to victim data excludes Western Australia as this jurisdiction has a high proportion of victims with unknown relationship of offender to victim information.

Of the 107,403 female victims of sexual assault recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 73% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 18% were sexually assaulted by a stranger

Of the 22,504 male victims of sexual assault recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 79% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 13% were sexually assaulted by a stranger

Relationship of offender to victim by age

While the majority of sexual assault victims knew the offender, known persons comprised a larger proportion of sexual assault offenders for victims under the age of 18 (at the date of incident) compared with those aged 18 years and over.

Of the 17,970 male victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 (at the date of incident) recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 83% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 10% were sexually assaulted by a stranger

Of the 4,379 male victims of sexual assault aged 18 years and over (at the date of incident) recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 60% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 28% were sexually assaulted by a stranger
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  1. Excludes victims with unknown age and relationship of offender to victim information. Excludes Western Australia;
  2. Includes ex-partner, separated partner, ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend, non-family member n.f.d. (not further defined), and other non family member n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified);
  3. Includes partner, de-facto, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, child, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousins, grandparents and other family member n.f.d. (not further defined).

Of the 63,364 female victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 (at the date of incident) recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 82% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 10% were sexually assaulted by a stranger

Of the 43,397 female victims of sexual assault aged 18 years and over (at the date of incident) recorded by police over the 2014 to 2019 period:

  • 62% were sexually assaulted by a known person
  • 29% were sexually assaulted by a stranger
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  1. Excludes victims with unknown age and relationship of offender to victim information. Excludes Western Australia;
  2. Includes ex-partner, separated partner, ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend, non-family member n.f.d. (not further defined), and other non family member n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified);
  3. Includes partner, de-facto, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, child, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousins, grandparents and other family member n.f.d. (not further defined).

Family and domestic related sexual assault

Within the context of national Recorded Crime – Victims police statistics, a family and domestic related offence is defined as an offence involving at least two persons who were in a specified family or domestic relationship at the time of the offence; or where the offence was determined by a police officer to be family and/or domestic violence related as part of their investigation. Family and domestic related offence data is available from 2014 onwards.

Over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • Police recorded 49,389 victims of family and domestic related sexual assault, which accounted for 34% of the 144,797 sexual assault victims recorded by police
  • 85% of family and domestic related sexual assault victims recorded by police were female

Family and domestic related sexual assault victimisation rate

Over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • The family and domestic related sexual assault victimisation rate for females increased from 49.2 to 60.1 victims per 100,000 females
  • The family and domestic related sexual assault victimisation rate for males remained stable at around 10.0 victims per 100,000 males
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  1. The number of victims per 100,000 of the relevant Estimated Resident Population.

Victims of family and domestic related sexual assault by age

The majority of male and female victims of family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by police over the period 2014 to 2019 were under the age of 18 at the date of incident.

Of the 7,203 male victims of family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by police over this period, 91% were under the age of 18 at the date of incident, including:

  • 62% who were aged 0 to 9 years
  • 29% who were aged 10 to 17 years

Of the 42,039 female victims of family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by police over this period, 67% were under the age of 18 at the date of incident, including:

  • 31% who were aged 0 to 9 years
  • 36% who were aged 10 to 17 years
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Victims of family and domestic related sexual assault by relationship of offender to victim[1]

Most family and domestic related sexual assaults were perpetrated by a family member who was not an intimate partner, which reflects the over-representation of children and teenagers in the population of sexual assault victims.

Intimate partners accounted for a larger proportion of family and domestic related sexual assaults experienced by females (34% of family and domestic related sexual assault victims) compared with males (7.7% of family and domestic related sexual assault victims).

Of the 6,699 male victims of family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 88% (5,888) were perpetrated by a family member who was not an intimate partner
  • 7.7% (519) were perpetrated by an intimate partner
  • 2.6% (175) were perpetrated by a non-family member[2]

Of the 38,775 female victims of family and domestic related sexual assault recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 60% (23,218) were perpetrated by a family member who was not an intimate partner
  • 34% (13,075) were perpetrated by an intimate partner
  • 3.1% (1,218) were perpetrated by a non-family member[2]

[1] Data excludes Western Australia. While Western Australia can identify and flag family and domestic related incidents, relationship of offender to victim information is not of sufficient quality for statistical purposes due to the high level of unknowns.

[2] Includes victims who were flagged by police as family and domestic related. May include carer or kinship relationships.

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  1. Excludes victims with unknown relationship of offender to victim information. Excludes Western Australia;
  2. Includes parent, child, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousins, grandparents and other family member n.f.d. (not further defined);
  3. Includes partner, de-facto, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, ex-partner, separated partner, ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend;
  4. Includes victims which were flagged by police as FDV–related. May include carer or kinship relationships.

Time to report to police

The time to report to police data item measures the length of time between the date an incident occurred and the date it was recorded by police. The offences recorded may have been reported by a victim, witness, or other person, or they may have been detected by police. As an example, if an incident occurred on 20 May 2010 but was reported to police on 20 May 2019 then this would be recorded in the 2019 reference period with a time to report of 9 years.

Of the 24,541 male victims of sexual assault recorded by police over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 39% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date
  • 19% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago

Of the 119,589 female victims of sexual assault recorded by police over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 48% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date
  • 5.9% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago
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Time to report by location

Time to report the incident to police varied by location and was generally shorter for victims of sexual assault in public locations and longer for victims of sexual assault in institutional settings. [1]

The proportion of sexual assault victims who reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date was highest for the following locations:

  • Street/footpath (66% of 586 male victims and 78% of 6,084 female victims)[2]
  • Transport (60% of 456 male victims and 75% of 3,875 female victims)[3]
  • Retail (60% of 736 male victims and 70% of 5,708 female victims)[4]

For victims of sexual assault in a residential location[5], 37% of 14,999 male victims and 43% of 79,623 female victims reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date.

[1] In November 2012 the Australian Government announced the decision to establish a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Public hearings commenced in 2013 with the final report presented in December 2017. This is one of the factors that may have impacted on the number of historical cases of sexual assault that were reported to police many years after the incident occurred.

[2] A location where the main activity is the passage of people, including footpath, lane, pavement, and street.

[3] A location where the main activity is the provision of transport services/facilities. This may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location.

[4] A location where the primary activity is the selling of goods or the provision of services to customers for personal/household use. This definition may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car/parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location.

[5] Includes dwelling and outbuilding/residential land.

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The proportion of sexual assault victims who reported the incident to police 20 years or more after the incident date was highest for the following locations:

  • Religious (72% of 239 male victims and 26% of 250 female victims)[1]
  • Educational (39% of 2,314 male victims)[2]
  • Justice (15% of 420 female victims)[3]

For victims of sexual assault in a residential location[4], 16% of 14,999 male victims and 7% of 79,623 female victims reported the incident to police 20 years or more after the incident date.

[1] A location where the main activity is the provision of religious service(s). This definition may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location.

[2] A location where the main activity is the provision of educational service(s). This definition may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location.

[3] A location where the main activity is maintenance of the law. This definition may encompass any surrounding land/yard/car parking area, together with any other structures existing at the location. Examples include courts, detention/remand centres, correctional facilities, and police stations.

[4] Includes dwelling and outbuilding/residential land.

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Time to report to police by relationship of offender to victim[1]

Time to report the incident to police varied by offender type and was shorter for victims of sexual assault perpetrated by a stranger compared with a known person.

The proportion of sexual assault victims who reported the incident to state/territory police agencies in less than 1 week from the incident date varied by offender type:

  • Known person (34% of male victims and 40% of female victims)
  • Stranger (56% of male victims and 74% of female victims)

The proportion of sexual assault victims who reported the incident to state/territory police agencies 20 years or more after the incident date varied by offender type:

  • Known person (21% of male victims and 7.4% of female victims)
  • Stranger (16% of male victims and 2.1% of female victims)

Time to report to police by family and domestic related sexual assault[2]

Incidents of family and domestic related sexual assault perpetrated by a family member other than an intimate partner were less likely to be reported to police within a year compared with incidents perpetrated by an intimate partner.

Of the 519 male victims of sexual assault by an intimate partner recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 36% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date. By 12 months after the incident 78% had reported the incident to police
  • 1.5% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago

Of the 5,888 male victims of sexual assault by a family member other than an intimate partner recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 33% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date. By 12 months after the incident 56% had reported the incident to police
  • 16% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago

[1] Data excludes Western Australia.

[2] Data excludes Western Australia. While Western Australia can identify and flag family and domestic related incidents, relationship of offender to victim information is not of sufficient quality for statistical purposes due to the high level of unknowns.

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  1. Excludes Western Australia;
  2. Includes partner, de-facto, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, ex-partner, separated partner, ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend;
  3. Includes parent, child, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousins, grandparents and other family member n.f.d. (not further defined).

Of the 13,075 female victims of sexual assault by an intimate partner recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 38% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date. By 12 months after the incident 76% had reported the incident to police
  • 1.8% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago

Of the 23,218 female victims of sexual assault by a family member other than an intimate partner recorded by state/territory police agencies over the period 2014 to 2019:

  • 27% reported the incident to police in less than one week from the incident date. By 12 months after the incident 50% had reported the incident to police
  • 15% reported an incident that occurred 20 years or more ago
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  1. Excludes Western Australia;
  2. Includes partner, de-facto, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, ex-partner, separated partner, ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend;
  3. Includes parent, child, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousins, grandparents and other family member n.f.d. (not further defined).

Advice/support and impacts on victims

The PSS asks respondents who have experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the ten years prior to survey in 2016 about advice/support sought and impacts following the most recent incident.

Advice and support seeking after women’s most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator[1]

The 2016 PSS found that of the 639,000 women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the ten years prior to survey, half (50%) sought advice or support after the most recent incident. The most common sources of advice or support were:

  • Friend or family member (71%)
  • Counsellor, support worker, or telephone helpline (27%)
  • General practitioner (21%)

[1] Due to the relatively smaller number of men experiencing sexual assault, data was not of sufficient quality for conducting a detailed analysis of advice/support and impacts for men.

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  1. More than one source of advice or support may have been reported.

Women were more likely to seek advice or support after the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator if they:

  • Were sexually assaulted by a family member (72%) compared with an intimate partner (48%) and a stranger (41%)
  • Experienced anxiety or fear for their personal safety in the 12 months after the incident (63% compared with 31% of those who did not experience anxiety or fear)
  • Were physically injured (73% compared with 42% of those who were not physically injured)
  • Perceived the incident as a crime at the time (69%) compared with those who perceived it as wrong but not a crime (44%) and those who perceived it as something that just happens (48%)

Impacts on women following the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator

Of the 639,000 women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the ten years prior to survey in 2016, following the most recent incident:

  • 57% experienced anxiety or fear for their personal safety in the 12 months after the incident
  • 51% who did not perceive the incident as a crime at the time said their perception had changed over time, the main reasons for the change being self-education (36%), awareness campaign (21%), and friend, family, or another person (17%)

Of the 144,000 women who were physically injured after the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male perpetrator:

  • 43% changed their social and/or leisure activities
  • 34% changed their sleeping habits
  • 26% changed their eating habits
  • 21% changed their contact details
  • 20% changed their personal relationships
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  1. More than one change to usual routine may have been reported.

Feelings of safety

Men who had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 were more likely than men who had not experienced sexual assault to feel unsafe in the following situations:

  • Of men who walked in the local area alone after dark in the previous 12 months: 17% of those who had experienced sexual assault felt unsafe, compared with 6.9% of those who had not experienced sexual assault
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  1. Proportion is of those who had undertaken each activity.

Women who had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 were more likely than women who had not experienced sexual assault to feel unsafe in the following situations:

  • Of women who waited for public transport alone after dark in the previous 12 months: 37% of those who had experienced sexual assault felt unsafe, compared with 31% of those who had not experienced sexual assault
  • Of women who walked in the local area alone after dark in the previous 12 months: 24% of those who had experienced sexual assault felt unsafe, compared with 19% of those who had not experienced sexual assault
  • Of women who were home alone after dark in the previous 12 months: 16% of those who had experienced sexual assault felt unsafe, compared with 9.2% of those who had not experienced sexual assault
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  1. Proportion is of those who had undertaken each activity.

Glossary

Personal Safety Survey

Cohabiting partner

Includes a person the respondent lives with (current partner) or lived with at some point (previous partner) in a married or de facto relationship.

Intimate partner

Includes current partner (living with), previous partner (has lived with), boyfriend/girlfriend/date and ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend (never lived with).

Lifetime sexual violence

Refers to having experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 or sexual abuse before the age of 15.

Prevalence

Refers to the number and proportion (rate) of persons in a given population that have experienced any type of violence within a specified time frame – usually in the last 12 months (12 months prior to the survey) and since the age of 15.

Sexual abuse

Any act by an adult involving a child (under the age of 15 years) in sexual activity beyond their understanding, or contrary to currently accepted community standards. Excludes emotional abuse and sexual abuse by someone under the age of 18.

Sexual assault

An act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, including 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, which for the purposes of the survey is defined as sexual harassment.

Recorded Crime - Victims

Age

Refers to the victim’s age (in years) at the start date of the incident.

Date of incident

Refers to the start date of an incident.

Family and domestic related

Any incident involving at least two persons who were in a specified family or domestic relationship at the time of the offence; or where the offence was determined by a police officer to be to be family and/or domestic related as part of their investigation. A specified family or domestic relationship includes: 

  • Partner (spouse, husband, wife, boyfriend, and girlfriend)
  • Ex-partner (Ex-spouse, ex-husband, ex-wife, ex- boyfriend, ex-girlfriend)
  • Parent (including step-parents)
  • Other family member (including, but not limited to, child, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew)
  • Other non-family member (carer, guardian, kinship relationships)
Family member

Includes partners, parents, children, siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends and other related family members.

Non-family member

Includes offenders known to the victim who are not family members. The group includes ex-partners, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and other non-family members.

Partner

Where the victim and the offender are married, in a de facto relationship or where the offender is the victim's boyfriend or girlfriend.

Relationship of offender to victim

The relationship of the alleged offender to the victim as perceived by the victim at the time of the offence.

Relationship of offender to victim data for Western Australia are not of sufficient quality for national reporting and are excluded from the national figures presented in this article.

Sexual assault

Physical contact, or intent of contact, of a sexual nature directed toward another person where that person does not give consent, gives consent as a result of intimidation or deception, or consent is proscribed (i.e. the person is legally deemed incapable of giving consent because of youth, temporary/permanent (mental) incapacity or there is a familial relationship). 

Victimisation rate

Refers to the number of victims per 100,000 of the Estimated Resident Population.

    Data downloads

    Sexual Violence - Victimisation (Tables 1 to 18)