97 per cent of sexual assault offenders are male

Media Release

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released new data examining the characteristics of sexual assault offenders and their outcomes in the criminal justice system over the past decade.

The new analysis found that police agencies in Australia recorded 53,570 sexual assault offenders between 2010-11 and 2019-20, with most of them male (97 per cent). After accounting for population growth, the male sexual assault offender rate increased from 46 offenders per 100,000 males in 2010-11, to 52 offenders per 100,000 in 2019-20.

Will Milne, ABS Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, said: “Nearly all police proceedings against sexual assault offenders (94 per cent) were formal charges that had to be answered in a criminal court.”

“Of the sexual assault cases heard across all criminal court levels that were concluded through a court ruling, 77 per cent resulted in a guilty outcome for the defendant.”

Just over half (53 per cent) of the 46,131 sexual assault court cases completed between 2010-11 and 2019-20 were concluded in a Higher Criminal Court, which hears more serious criminal charges.

“Three in four sexual assault defendants (76 per cent) who had a guilty outcome in a Higher Criminal Court were sentenced to serve time in prison, with an average sentence length of four and a half years.”

The proportion of sexual assault defendants with a guilty outcome in a Higher Criminal Court who were sentenced to serve time in prison increased from 71 per cent in 2010-11 to 80 per cent in 2019-20.

The sexual assault imprisonment rate for men increased from 40 prisoners per 100,000 adult men in 2010, to 52 prisoners per 100,000 in 2019,” Mr Milne added. The analysis also revealed that one in three prisoners (32 per cent) serving time for sexual assault had been imprisoned previously.

Further results from the new analysis are presented in the article 'Sexual Assault - Perpetrators,' available on the ABS website. It is the third article in a series exploring the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence in Australia. Previously released articles in the series include ‘Sexual Violence – Victimisation’ and ‘Sexual Harassment.’

If you or anyone you know is in need or crisis please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline 131 114.

Media notes

  • Data refers to offenders, defendants, and prisoners with a principal (most serious) offence of sexual assault.
  • In the Recorded Crime – Offenders collection, an offender is a person aged 10 years or over who is proceeded against and recorded by police for one or more criminal offences.  
  • Police charge data excludes Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
  • Sexual assault is defined as physical contact, or intent of contact, of a sexual nature directed towards 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).
  • Answering criminal charges involves attending court for a committal proceeding, court hearing, or trial, depending on the seriousness of the offence and the jurisdiction the matter is heard in.
  • Guilty outcome includes guilty plea by the defendant and guilty finding by the court.
  • Previous imprisonment may have been for sexual assault or another offence.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
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