Latest release

Personal Safety, Australia methodology

Reference period
2016
Released
8/11/2017
Next release Unknown
First release

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 The statistics presented in this release were compiled from data collected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), conducted from November 2016 to June 2017.

2 The survey collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15. It also collected detailed information about men's and women's experience of current and previous partner violence and emotional abuse, experiences of stalking since the age of 15, sexual and physical abuse before the age of 15, witnessing of violence between a parent and their partner before the age of 15, lifetime experience of sexual harassment, and general feelings of safety.

3 The statistics presented in this release, refer to the Data downloads which can be accessed in the Downloads section and are indicative of the extensive range of data available from the survey and demonstrate the analytical potential of the survey results.

4 Full details about all the data collected in the 2016 PSS are provided in the Data Item List. This and other detailed information on how to maximise the use of the extensive range of data are available in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003). Additional information may be made available by request, on a fee for service basis, through the ABS Information Consultancy, or via TableBuilder or Detailed Microdata products which are expected to be released in the first quarter of 2018.

5 This is the third time the PSS has been conducted. The PSS was last run in 2012, and prior to that in 2005. The PSS is based on the design of the Women's Safety Survey (WSS) (cat. no. 4128.0) which was conducted in 1996, and has been adapted to include men's experience of violence. This release includes some data comparisons with previous iterations where appropriate.

Background

6 The PSS meets the need for updated information on the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women in Australia and other related information regarding people's safety at home and in the community.

7 The need for data on the prevalence of violence and sexual assault is discussed in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, and in the following ABS Information Papers:

8 ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, provided funding for the 2016 PSS. A Survey Advisory Group, comprising key government and non-government bodies, provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and relevant academics.

Scope of the survey

9 The scope of the 2016 PSS was persons aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas). Interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years or over who was a usual resident of the selected household.

10 Both urban and rural areas in all states and territories were included in the survey, except for very remote areas of Australia. The following groups were excluded from the scope of the survey:

  • visitors at a dwelling whose usual place of residence is Australia
  • overseas visitors intending to stay in Australia for less than 12 months
  • non-Australian diplomats, non-Australia diplomatic staff and non-Australian members of their household
  • members of non-Australian defence forces stationed in Australia and their dependants
  • people who usually reside in non-private dwellings, and
  • households where all residents are aged less than 18 years.
     

Survey design

Sample design

11 The 2016 PSS was designed to produce reliable estimates for selected key estimates of interest. Each of these key estimates were then required to be disaggregated for:

  • women: for each state and territory (and at the national level)
  • men: at the national level. While the survey was not designed to provide state/territory level data for men, estimates of acceptable quality are able to be produced for some of the larger states.
     

12 The sample for women was allocated roughly equally across each state and territory to provide sufficiently reliable state and territory and national level estimates for women. The sample for men was allocated to states and territories roughly in proportion to their respective population size to provide sufficiently reliable national level estimates for men. In order to target the differential numbers of male and female sample, dwellings were pre-assigned for either male selection (where an interview with a male aged 18 years and over was required) or female selection (where an interview with a female aged 18 years and over was required). One in-scope person of the pre-assigned gender was then randomly selected from each dwelling. Where the household did not contain an in-scope resident of the pre-assigned gender, an in scope resident of the alternate gender was randomly selected. For further information refer to the Survey Development and Data Collection page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

13 Response rates to the survey were expected to be impacted by a number of operational factors that were designed to help ensure the safety of respondents, the safety of interviewers and to help ensure data integrity. These included:

  • the part voluntary nature of the survey
  • requirement for all interviews to be conducted in a private interview setting
  • proxy interviews were not conducted for the voluntary component (therefore people requiring a proxy are not included in the final data), and
  • the overall sensitive nature of the survey content.
     

Sample size

14 There were 36,495 private dwellings approached for the survey, comprising 7,074 pre-assigned male households and 29,421 pre-assigned female households.

15 After removing households where residents were out of scope of the survey, and where dwelling proved to be vacant, under construction or derelict, a final sample of 30,933 eligible dwellings were identified.

16 A final response rate of 68.7% was achieved, with 21,242 persons completing the questionnaire nationally. The response comprised 5,653 fully responding males and 15,589 fully responding females.

17 For further details on the response rates, refer to the Response Rates page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Data collection

18 Personal face to face interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years and over who was a usual resident of the selected household. Interviews were conducted from November 2016 to June 2017. On average contact time with fully responding households was 33 minutes.

19 The 2016 PSS was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This ensures that the ABS has the authority to ask questions and that the confidentiality provisions of the Act will be applied, as in all ABS surveys. However, because of the potential sensitivities of parts of this survey, the compliance provisions of the Act were not fully applied and the survey was conducted on a part voluntary basis.

20 Due to the sensitive nature of the information being collected, as with previous cycles, special procedures were used to ensure the safety of those participating and the reliability of the data provided.

21 Information was collected by specially trained ABS interviewers. The training program included sessions to familiarise the interviewers with:

  • the concepts addressed in the survey (definitions)
  • the specialised survey procedures developed for the survey (including sensitive approach methods to maximise response)
  • the Computer Assisted Interview (CAI) instrument (via Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) and Computer Assisted Self Interview (CASI)), and
  • administrative aspects of the survey.
     

22 In addition to the standard ABS training provided to ABS interviewers regarding the survey content and field procedures, interviewers also received tailored sensitivity and awareness training, designed to increase their knowledge and understanding of what happens when a person experiences violence. The ABS utilised external consultants, specialised in this field to provide this component of the interviewer training.

23 To help ensure respondent comfort and well-being, as well as encouraging participation, the ABS used female interviewers for the PSS. It was considered that men and women would be more likely to feel comfortable revealing sensitive information about their possible experiences of violence to a woman. This was based on collective advice from experts in the field during the survey development, was in line with the successful procedures followed for the 2005 and 2012 PSS, and was also supported by the 2016 PSS Survey Advisory Group. To cater for instances where this might not be the case, the ABS also trained a small number of male interviewers, in case a respondent preferred that their interview be conducted by a male.

24 Prior to enumeration, all selected households were sent out pre-approach material by mail that consisted of the following:

  • a registration letter and leaflet, sent to the dwelling 21 days prior to enumeration requesting household to register contact details, and
  • a reminder letter, sent 16 days prior to enumeration.
     

The materials sent out were kept deliberately vague regarding the information that would be collected and assured respondents of the confidentiality of data collected. The letters did not detail the sensitive information to be collected.

25 If households registered contact details for the survey, the interviewer called first to collect household details to determine who the selected person was so that arrangements to speak with them could be made prior to attending the house. If household contact details weren't registered, the interviewer approached the house in person. A series of screening questions were asked of the person initially answering the door, to determine the number of usual male/female residents aged 18 years and over.

26 Selected respondents were first advised of the general nature of the survey. During the interview, less sensitive questions were asked first, such as their demographic details and general feelings of safety questions. This allowed people to develop a certain level of rapport with the interviewer and familiarised them with some survey content.

27 Once the questions regarding a person's experience of violence were reached, respondents were informed of the sensitive nature of the upcoming questions and their permission to continue with the interview was sought (referred to as the Opt-out point). At this point the respondent was also advised that the interview would continue as a Computer Assisted Self-Enumeration Interview (CASI), that is, the respondent could complete the interview themselves using the interviewer's laptop. If the respondent identified that they were not comfortable to continue in this interview mode, the interviewer could offer to continue conducting the interview (referred to as a Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI)). In these situations, it was a specific requirement that all CAPIs for the sensitive topics be conducted alone (including no children) in a private setting. Interviewers were also advised that if the respondent chose to complete the voluntary component as a CASI, they should ensure that other people could not see the screen or respondent reactions, or hear any queries the respondent may ask about the questions. If they could, then the interviewer was advised to follow the same procedures as a CAPI interview.

28 For the 2016 PSS, proxy interviews, if required for translation or due to the respondent being incapable of responding for themselves as a result of a significant medical reason, were used to complete the compulsory part of the survey. For these interviews, the sensitive voluntary component of the survey was not mentioned and questions on these topics were not asked. The use of proxy interviews for the compulsory part of the survey provided information on the possible under representation in the survey of particular types of respondents, such as those from a non-English speaking background or with a profound or severe communication disability. For a detailed definition of proxy, refer to the Glossary.

29 To cater for instances where a respondent did not speak English, a small number of interviewers with foreign language skills were trained to conduct PSS interviews.

30 For further information on data collection and survey procedures, refer to the Survey Development and Data Collection page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Weighting, benchmarking and estimation

Weighting

31 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in-scope population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit corresponding to the level at which population statistics are produced. For the 2016 PSS, this is at a person level. The weight can be considered an indication of how many population units are represented by the sample unit.

Selection weights

32 The first step in calculating weights for each person was to assign an initial weight, which was equal to the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was one in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 people).

Benchmarking

33 Using information based on observations by interviewers at the dwelling, as well as additional information collected from non-fully responding respondents as part of the compulsory component of the survey, analysis was undertaken to ascertain whether there were any particular categories of persons that were over or under-represented in the sample. This over or under-representation in the sample can be corrected using a non-response adjustment and/or through calibrating the weights to population benchmarks. Only calibrating the weights to population benchmarks was adopted for the 2016 PSS.

34 Benchmarks are independent estimates of the size of the population of interest. Weights are calibrated against independent population benchmarks to ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population, with respect to the benchmark categories, rather than to the distribution within the responding sample itself. The 2016 PSS survey estimates were benchmarked to the estimated resident Australian population aged 18 years and over who were living in private dwellings (excluding very remote areas of Australia) as at February 2017, simultaneously using the following benchmark categories:

Number of persons by -

  • State or territory by capital city/balance of state by age groups by sex
  • State or territory by Social marital status (Married in registered or de facto marriage and Not married) by sex
  • State or territory by broad Country of birth (Australia, Main English Speaking categories and Other) by sex
  • State or territory by Labour force status (Full Time Employed, Part Time Employed, Unemployed, or Not In the Labour Force) by sex, and
  • Age group (slightly more detailed) by sex.
     

Estimation

35 Estimation is a technique used to produce information about a population of interest, based on a sample of units (i.e. persons) from the population. Each record in the 2016 PSS has a person weight. Information for sampled persons is multiplied by the weights to produce estimates for the whole population.

36 For further information on weighting, benchmarking and estimation, refer to the Methodology page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003)

Survey content

Overview of data collected in PSS

37 A key objective of the 2016 PSS was to collect information about the prevalence of men's and women's experience of violence since the age of 15. This includes their experience of physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by male and female perpetrators (for six key perpetrator types: current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or date, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, other known person, and stranger). This provides information on the prevalence of the different types of violence by different perpetrator types.

38 Where a person had experienced any of these types of violence, more detailed information was then collected for their most recent incident of each of the eight types of violence: physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by a male and by a female perpetrator. This information is used to understand what happens when a person experiences violence by a male or female perpetrator and how this differs depending on the different types of violence.

39 Where someone had experienced violence by a current partner and/or previous partner they were asked further questions about what happened during the relationship. This information was collected separately for current partner violence and previous partner violence: if someone had experienced violence by more than one previous partner, the information was collected about their most recently violent previous partner only.

40 Other topics collected include experiences of stalking since the age of 15, abuse before the age of 15, witness violence towards a parent and their partner before the age of 15, partner emotional abuse, lifetime experience of sexual harassment and general feelings of safety.

Interpretation of results

41 Care has been taken to ensure that results in the 2016 PSS are as accurate as possible. This includes thorough design and testing of the questionnaire, interviews being conducted by trained ABS interviewers, and quality control procedures throughout data collection, processing and output. For information on detailed interpretation of results refer to the relevant topic pages in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Measuring multiple incidents and multiple types of violence

42 It is possible that people have experienced multiple incidents of violence. Where a person has experienced more than one type of violence, they are counted separately for each type of violence they experience but are only counted once in the aggregated totals. Components therefore may not add to the totals. For example if a person had experienced an incident of physical assault by a stranger and an incident of physical assault by their current partner, they would be counted against each type of violence by type of perpetrator (i.e. physical assault by a stranger and physical assault by a current partner) but they would only be counted once in the total for those who had experienced physical assault.

43 It is also possible that a single incident of violence may involve more than one of the different types of violence. In the PSS, a single incident of violence is only counted once. Where an incident involves both sexual and physical assault, it is counted as a sexual assault. For example, if a person is physically assaulted during or as part of a sexual assault, this would be counted once only as a sexual assault. Where an incident involves a person being both threatened with assault and assaulted, it is counted as an assault. For example, if in a single incident a perpetrator threatens to sexually assault a person and then sexually assaults them, this would be counted only once in the survey as a sexual assault. The same applies for incidents where a person is both threatened with physical assault and physically assaulted.

44 For detailed descriptions and definitions of violence, refer to the Glossary.

Violence - most recent incident data (MRI)

45 The characteristics and actions taken following an incident of violence differ depending on the type of violence a person experienced and the gender of the perpetrator. Due to constraints on the length of an interview and the load placed on respondents, it was not possible to collect detailed information about each incident of violence a person had ever experienced. Instead, detailed information was collected about their most recent incident for each of the eight different types of violence. A 'most recent' incident method was used to select a sample of incidents. If the most recent incident occurred more than 10 years ago, detailed information was not collected due to difficulties associated with recalling the incident and to reduce respondent burden. For further information refer to the Violence - Most recent incident page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

46 People who had experienced violence within the last 10 years were asked to provide more detailed information about their most recent incident including: what happened during the incident; the actions taken following the incident; and the impact of the incident. This provides information for each of the eight different types of violence a person could experience:

  • Sexual assault by a male perpetrator
  • Sexual assault by a female perpetrator
  • Sexual threat by a male perpetrator
  • Sexual threat by a female perpetrator
  • Physical assault by a male perpetrator
  • Physical assault by a female perpetrator
  • Physical threat by a male perpetrator
  • Physical threat by a female perpetrator
     

47 Most recent incident data information is able to be used to analyse the different types of violence experienced by men and women to assess:

  • Whether there are differences in what happens when different types of violence are experienced, and
  • Whether there are differences between what happens when a woman experiences violence, and when a man experiences violence.
     

Violence - prevalence

48 The information provided above can be used to produce a range of prevalence estimates for men's and women's experiences of violence, according to the type of violence, the type and sex of the perpetrator, and time frame. 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 and since the age of 15. Prevalence rates are calculated by dividing the number of men/women/persons that have experienced the type of violence since the age of 15 by the total number of persons aged 18 years and over within that same population. For further information refer to the Violence - Prevalence page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

49 The characteristics of the different types of violence are not able to be added to produce a total for characteristics of "violence". Conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the characteristics for the different types of violence, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the type of violence experienced. For example, if a person had contacted the police about their most recent incident of physical assault by a male but had not contacted police about their most recent incident of physical assault by a female, it is impossible to calculate an estimate of whether or not this person has contacted the police about "violence" - they both have and haven't. To add together data about characteristics of the different types of violence would also double count all persons who have experienced more than one type of violence.

Abuse before the age 15

50 The definition of child abuse can vary across the different sectors of government, criminal justice systems, service providers and research organisations, depending on the perspective and interests of the organisation that have created it.

51 Sexual abuse is defined as any act involving a child (under the age of 15 years) in sexual activity beyond their understanding or contrary to currently accepted community standards. This excludes emotional abuse and sexual abuse under the age of 18.

52 Physical abuse is defined as any deliberate physical injury (including bruises) inflicted upon a child (under the age of 15 years) by an adult. This excludes discipline that accidentally resulted in injury, emotional abuse, and physical abuse by someone under the age of 18.

53 The 2016 PSS collected information about a respondent’s experience of sexual and physical abuse before the age of 15 years by any adult (male or female). Respondents were asked if they were sexually and/or physically abused by an adult (aged 18 years or over) before the age of 15. The same set of questions was repeated twice, for sexual abuse and physical abuse separately. Due to the sensitive nature of the module, respondents had the option of declining to answer these questions. If a respondent answered that they had experienced sexual or physical abuse before the age of 15, they were asked to identify all of the adult perpetrator types that abused them.

54 Information about the characteristics of the first incident of abuse was collected separately for sexual abuse and physical abuse. The Abuse before the age of 15 module was primarily designed to be used in conjunction with information collected in other parts of the survey in order to analyse the relationship between experiences of child abuse before the age of 15 and later experiences of violence as an adult from the age of 15. For further information refer to the Abuse before the age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Witness violence before the age of 15

55 In the context of this module, violence refers to physical assault only and only encompasses violence witnessed between a parent and their partner. The 2016 PSS collected information about whether the respondent, before the age of 15, ever saw or heard violence being directed at one parent by another. The definition of violence used was the same as used to collect physical assault data in the Violence since the age of 15 topic. Mother includes step mothers and female guardians or caregivers. Partner includes the respondent’s father/stepfather, and the mother’s boyfriend or same-sex partner. Father includes step fathers and male guardians or caregivers. Partner includes the respondent’s mother/stepmother, and the father’s girlfriend or same-sex partner.

56 The questions about witnessing violence before the age of 15 were asked separately of the respondent for witnessing violence against their mother by a partner, and witnessing violence against their father by a partner. Respondents that reported having seen or heard any of the above being done to their mother and/or father were then asked how many times they saw or heard these things being done - 'once or twice' or 'more than twice'.

57 The witness violence before the age of 15 module was primarily designed to be used in conjunction with information collected in other parts of the survey to analyse the relationship between seeing and hearing violence as a child towards a parental figure and later experiences of violence as an adult from the age of 15. For further information refer to the Witness violence before the age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Partner violence

58 Partner violence refers to any incident, reported in the Violence since the age of 15 module, of sexual assault, sexual threat, physical assault or physical threat by a current partner they were living with at the time of the survey and/or a previous partner they had lived with. Partner violence does not include violence by a boyfriend/girlfriend or date, which refers to a person that the respondent dated, or was intimately involved with, but did not live with. For detailed descriptions and definitions, refer to the Glossary.

59 If a respondent had identified more than one violent previous partner in the Violence since the age of 15 module, they were asked to focus on their most recently violent previous partner in the Partner violence module.

60 The Partner violence module is designed to capture information about the nature and impact of the violence throughout the duration of the relationship with the current partner and/or most recently violent previous partner. Partner violence data can be used to examine:

  • the characteristics of the violence experienced, such as how often violence was experienced
  • support-seeking behaviours, such as whether advice or support was sought and from whom
  • police involvement, such as whether the police were contacted, and other legal action including whether the partner was charged, whether they went to court, and whether a restraining order was issued
  • the impact of the violence on the respondent, including whether they experienced anxiety or fear as a result of the violence, changes to their usual routine, and whether they took time off work, and
  • separations from their violent partner as a result of the violence, including whether they ever temporarily separated, reasons for separation, places stayed during temporary separations, whether left property or assets behind, and reasons for returning to the violent partner.
     

61 Partner violence data collected in this module cannot be broken down by the type of violence experienced (sexual/physical assault/threat), only by the type of perpetrator (current or previous). Components for current partner and previous partner violence are not able to be added together to produce data for a 'total partner' aggregate as it would lead to double counting of all persons who have experienced violence by both a current and a previous partner, and does not account for where people had experienced violence by more than one previous partner. For further information refer to the Partner violence page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Partner emotional abuse

62 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. For a detailed definition of emotional abuse, refer to the Glossary.

63 The 2016 PSS collected information about a respondent's experience of emotional abuse since the age of 15, by a current partner they were living with at the time of the survey and/or a previous partner that they had lived with. Where a person had experienced emotional abuse by more than one previous partner, they were asked to focus on the most recently emotionally abusive previous partner when answering the more detailed questions about previous partner emotional abuse. This may or may not have been the same previous partner that was most recently violent, if the respondent had also experienced previous partner violence. In other words, the most recently violent previous partner and most recently emotionally abusive previous partner may be the same or different. Emotional abuse by a previous partner includes abuse that occurred after the relationship ended. For definitions of current partner and previous partner, refer to the Glossary.

64 Partner emotional abuse data can be used to examine:

  • the prevalence of partner emotional abuse, and
  • the characteristics of emotional abuse by a current and previous partner, such as the types of emotionally abusive behaviours experienced, how often the emotional abuse was experienced, and whether the anxiety or fear was experienced as a result.
     

65 Components for current partner and previous partner emotional abuse are not able to be added together to produce data for a 'total emotional abuse' aggregate as it would lead to double counting of all persons who have experienced emotional abuse by both a current and a previous partner. For further information refer to the Partner emotional abuse page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Stalking

66 The 2016 PSS collected information about a respondent's experiences of stalking since the age of 15. Persons were asked if they had experienced stalking by a man and by a woman separately. Stalking was considered to have occurred if a person has experienced:

  • any unwanted contact or attention on more than one occasion that could have caused fear or distress, or
  • multiple types of unwanted contact or behaviour that could have caused fear or distress.
     

For a detailed definition of stalking, refer to the Glossary.

67 As soon as stalking behaviour had been identified, the episode was the focus of the remainder of the questions which the PSS defines as the most recent stalking episode as the stalking behaviours were likely to have occurred over a protracted period of time. Information about the types of stalking behaviours experienced in the most recent episode, the relationship to the perpetrator, and when the episode of stalking stopped was collected for the most recent episode of stalking by a man and by a woman since the age of 15. If the most recent episode of stalking occurred in the last 20 years, further information about the episode was collected. For further information refer to the Stalking page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

68 Stalking prevalence data is available on the person level as aggregated data items (persons that have experienced stalking by both a man and a woman are only counted once in the aggregated data item 'Whether experienced stalking since age 15'). Stalking prevalence data can be used to examine:

  • the estimated number and proportion (rate) of persons that have experienced stalking by a man and/or woman during the last 12 months and since the age of 15, and
  • differences in the stalking prevalence rate between the male and female population.
     

69 Most recent episode data can be used to examine:

  • differences between men's and women's experiences of stalking, including stalking behaviours experienced, impacts, actions, and outcomes, and
  • differences between male perpetrated stalking and female perpetrated stalking, including stalking behaviours experienced, impacts, actions, and outcomes.
     

Data comparability

Comparability between 2012 and 2016 PSS

70 The scope, content and data collection for the 2016 PSS was largely the same as the 2012 survey, with a few key changes:

  • Sample size – The sample size for 2016 was significantly larger due to improvements in response rates and changes to sample design.
  • Sample design – In 2016, pre-assigned genders selections for households were able to be ‘flipped’ to the alternate gender if no-one aged 18 years or over in the household was of the pre-assigned gender. This is consistent with the approach taken in the 2005 PSS.
  • Collection mode – The 2016 PSS introduced the Computer Assisted Self Interview (CASI), which gave respondents the option to complete the sensitive (voluntary) topics themselves using the interviewer laptop.
  • Compulsion – In 2016, the PSS was part compulsory, for the collection of demographic and other general non-sensitive topics.
  • Content – some changes were made to definitions to assist with respondent understanding as well as the addition of some new content or concepts (for example additional technologically focused behaviours were added to the sexual harassment, stalking and emotional abuse topics).
     

71 Selected summary results from the 1996 Women's Safety Survey, and the 2005, 2012 and 2016 PSS are presented in this publication to provide comparisons over time - refer to Tables 2, 8 and 39. The statistical significance of differences in estimates between 2012 and 2016 has been investigated and results that are statistically significant are indicated in the tables.

72 For further information on 2016 PSS procedures, content changes, and comparability with previous iterations of the PSS, refer to the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Comparison of data from PSS and other ABS sources

73 The ABS collects and publishes data relating to crime and safety from different sources, for example the Crime Victimisation Survey, Australia and the General Social Survey, Australia and administrative data from police agencies. Comparisons of PSS data with data from other sources cannot be readily made because of differences in data collection methods and the concepts and definitions used to measure violence. For example, survey mode may influence differences (face-to-face versus telephone interviewing), context effects (preceding questions influence responses to subsequent questions), differences in question wording and the length and timing of data collection.

74 Further information on crime data measurement issues is available in the information paper: Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey data (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001).

Classifications

75 Country of Birth data were classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0).

76 Languages spoken at home were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Language (ASCL) (cat. no. 1267.0).

77 Australian geographic data are classified according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001)

78 Educational attainment data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0)

Confidentiality

79 The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.

80 To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique has been used to randomly adjust cell values. This technique is called perturbation. Perturbation involves a small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics.

81 After perturbation, a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables. However, adding up cell values to derive a total will not necessarily give the same result as published totals. Where possible, a footnote has been applied to an estimated total where this is apparent in a diagram or graph (for example, if males who experienced violence and females who experienced violence don’t add to persons who have experienced violence). For commentary, please refer to the referenced data tables for confirmation of perturbation effects.

82 The introduction of perturbation in publications ensures that these statistics are consistent with statistics released via services such as TableBuilder.

83 Perturbation has been applied to 2016 PSS data published in this publication. Data from previous PSS or WSS presented in this publication have not been perturbed, but have been confidentialised if required using suppression of cells.

Rounding

84 Estimates presented in this publication have been rounded. As a result, sums of the components may not add exactly to totals.

85 Proportions presented in this publication are based on unrounded figures. Calculations using rounded figures may differ from those published.

Acknowledgements

86 The ABS would like to thank the people who completed the survey. Their participation has contributed to valuable information that will help to inform public debate about violence and will help further development of policies and programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of violence in Australia.

87 The ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, provided funding for the 2016 PSS. A Survey Advisory Group, comprising of key government and non-government bodies, provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and academics in the field.

Products and services

Spreadsheets

88 All tables, in Excel format, can be accessed from the Data Downloads. The spreadsheets present tables of estimates and percents/prevalence rates, and the corresponding Relative Standard Errors (RSEs) for estimates and Margin of Errors (MoEs) for per cents/prevalence rates. For more details regarding RSEs and MoEs, refer to the Technical Note of this publication.

Microdata

89 The 2016 PSS is available as TableBuilder and Detailed Microdata products for users who wish to undertake more detailed analysis. TableBuilder is an online tool for creating tables from ABS survey data, where variables can be selected for cross-tabulation. The Detailed Microdata product is available through the ABS Data Laboratory. The Microdata Entry page on the ABS website contains links to microdata related information to assist users to understand and access microdata. Additional information on the PSS microdata products are also available via Microdata: Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.001).

Data available on request

90 Customised tabulations are available on request. Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, tabulations can be produced from the survey incorporating data items, populations and geographic areas selected to meet individual requirements.

Technical note

Reliability of estimates

1 The estimates in the 2016 PSS publication are based on information obtained from a sample of the Australian population. Although care has been taken to ensure that the results of the survey are as accurate as possible, there are certain factors which can affect the reliability of the results to some extent and for which no adequate adjustments can be made.

2 One such factor is known as sampling error. The key measures used to assess the impact of sampling error on the 2016 PSS estimates in this publication are described below. Such calculations were undertaken in this publication and should be kept in mind when interpreting the results of this survey.

3 Other factors are collectively referred to as non-sampling errors. For more details on sampling error as well as details on non-sampling errors, refer to the Data Quality and Technical Notes page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Sampling error

4 As the 2016 PSS data was obtained from a sample of the Australian population, the impact of sampling error on estimates was closely reviewed. Sampling error (or sampling variability) is used to describe the circumstance where survey estimates differ from those that would have been produced had all persons been included in the survey. The magnitude of the sampling error associated with a sample estimate depends on the following factors:

  • Sample design - the final design attempted to make key survey results as representative as possible within cost and operational constraints.
  • Sample size - the larger the sample on which the estimate is based, the smaller the associated sampling error.
  • Population variability - the extent to which people differ on the particular characteristic being measured. This is referred to as the population variability for that characteristic. The smaller the population variability of a particular characteristic, the more likely it is that the population will be well represented by the sample, and, therefore the smaller sampling error. Conversely, the more variable the characteristic, the greater the sampling error.
     

Calculation of standard error

5 One measure of the likely difference in estimates is given by the Standard Error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied because only a sample of dwellings was included. There are about two chances in three (67%) that the sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the figure that would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included, and about 19 chances in 20 that the difference will be less than two SEs.

Diagram showing published estimate
The published estimate is 467,300. There are two chances in three that the true value is in the range 439,700 to 494,900, and 19 chances in 20 that the true value is in the range 412,100 to 522,500.

6 For estimates of population sizes, the size of the SE generally increases with the level of the estimate, so that the larger the estimate, the larger the SE. However, the larger the sampling estimate the smaller the SE becomes in percentage terms. Thus, larger sample estimates will be relatively more reliable than smaller estimates. SE can be calculated using the estimates (counts or percentages) and the corresponding Relative Standard Error (RSE). For example, in this publication the estimated males aged 18 years and over who experienced physical assault in the last 12 months was 309,400. The RSE corresponding to this estimate is 8.7%. The SE is calculated by:

\(\large S E \text { of estimate }=\left(\frac{R S E}{100}\right) \times estimate\)

= (8.7 / 100) * 309400

= 26,900 (rounded to the nearest 100)

7 The RSE is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate to which it related. The RSE is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and thus avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate.

\(\large R S E \%=\left(\frac{S E}{e s t i m a t e}\right) \times 100\)

8 Estimates with RSEs less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes. However, estimates with RSEs of 25% or more are included in this publication of results and have been appropriately identified to use with caution. RSEs are presented in the tables of the publication for estimates ('000). Estimates with RSEs greater than 25% but less than or equal to 50% are annotated with an asterisk (*) to indicate they are subject to high SEs relative to the size of the estimate and should be used with caution. Estimates with RSEs of greater than 50%, annotated with a double asterisk (**), are considered too unreliable for most purposes. These estimates can be aggregated with other estimates to reduce the overall sampling error. Note that RSEs for proportion estimates (%) are not presented in the tables of this publication, but rather the Margin of Error (MoE) is presented (see section below). However RSEs can be produced from the TableBuilder or Detailed Microdata products or by request.

Calculation of Margin of Error

9 Another useful measure is the Margin of Error (MoE), which describes the distance from the population value that the sample estimate is likely to be within, and is specified at a given level of confidence. Confidence levels typically used are 90%, 95% and 99%. For example, at the 95% confidence level, the MoE indicates that there are about 19 chances in 20 that the estimate will differ by less than the specified MoE from the population value (the figure obtained if all dwellings had been enumerated). The MoE at the 95% confidence level is expressed as 1.96 times the SE.

10 A confidence interval expresses the sampling error as a range in which the population value is expected to lie at a given level of confidence. The confidence interval can easily be constructed from the MoE of the same level of confidence, by taking the estimate plus or minus the MoE of the estimate. In other terms, the 95% confidence interval is the estimate +/- MoE i.e. the range from minus 1.96 times the SE to the estimate plus 1.96 times the SE. The 95% MoE can also be calculated from the RSE by the following, where y is the value of the estimate:

\(\large\operatorname{MOE}(y)=\frac{R S E(y) \times y}{100} \times 1.96\)

11 Note due to rounding, the SE calculated from the RSE may be slightly different to the SE calculated from the MoE for the same estimate. The SE of estimate using MoEs is calculated by:

\(\large S E \text { of estimate }=\left(\frac{M O E}{1.96}\right)\)

12 Using the two formulas above, it was found that there are about 19 chances in 20 that the estimate of the proportion of females aged 18 years and over who experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months (17.3%) is within +/- 1.1 percentage points from the population value. Similarly, there are about 19 chances in 20 that the proportion of females aged 18 years and over who experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months is within the confidence interval of 16.2% to 18.4%.

13 In the tables in this publication, MoEs are presented for the proportion estimates (%). Proportion estimates are preceded by a hash (e.g. #10.2) if the corresponding MoE is greater than 10 percentage points. An estimate is also preceded by a hash if the MoE is large enough such that the corresponding confidence interval for this estimate would exceed the value of 0% and/or 100%; the natural limits of a proportion. The latter situation will occur if the MoE is greater than the estimate itself, or greater than 100 minus the estimate. Users should give the margin of error particular consideration when using this estimate. Note that MoEs for 1996 proportion estimates in the tables for this publication were calculated using the RSEs presented in the RSE tables found in the Women’s Safety Survey (cat. no. 4128.0).

Standard error of a difference

14 The difference between two survey estimates is itself an estimate and is therefore subject to sampling error or variability. The sampling error of the difference between the two estimates depends on their individual SEs and the level of statistical association (correlation) between the estimates. An approximate SE of the difference between two estimates (x-y) may be calculated by the following formula:

\(\large S E(x-y) \approx \sqrt{[S E(x)]^{2}+[S E(y)]^{2}}\)

15 For example, the number of females who have been stalked minus the number of males who have been stalked. While this formula will only be exact for differences between separate sub-populations or uncorrelated characteristics of sub-populations, it is expected to provide a reasonable approximation for most differences likely to be of interest in relation to this survey.

Significance testing on differences between survey estimates

16 When comparing estimates between surveys or between populations within a survey, it is useful to determine whether apparent differences are 'real' differences between the corresponding population characteristics or simply the product of differences between the survey samples. One way to examine this is to determine whether the difference between the estimates is statistically significant. A statistical significance test for a comparison between estimates can be performed to determine whether it is likely that there is a difference between the corresponding population characteristics. The standard error of the difference between two corresponding estimates (x and y) can be calculated using the formula shown above in the Standard error of a difference section. This standard error is then used to calculate the test statistic:

\(\Large\left(\frac{x-y}{S E(x-y)}\right)\)

17 If the value of this test statistic is greater than 1.96 then there is good evidence, with a 95% level of confidence, of a statistically significant difference in the two populations with respect to that characteristic. Otherwise, it cannot be stated with confidence (at the 95% confidence level) that there is a real difference between the populations.

18 Data presented in the commentary chapters of this publication have been significance tested to assess whether or not there is a difference (for example, between men and women) or change (for example between 2012 and 2016). When undertaking additional analysis of data presented in the tables, significance testing is recommended.

Example of estimates where there was a statistically significant difference

19 An estimated 5.4% of all men aged 18 years or over and 3.5% of all women aged 18 years or over had experienced physical violence during the 12 months prior to the survey.

  • The estimate of 5.4% of men who had experienced physical violence in the 12 months prior to the survey has an RSE of 7.0%. There are 19 chances out of 20 that an estimate of between 4.7% and 6.1% (or +/- 0.7% MoE) of men would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included in the survey.
  • The estimate of 3.5% of women who had experienced physical violence in the 12 months prior to the survey has an RSE of 5.9%. There are 19 chances out of 20 that an estimate of between 3.1% and 3.9% (or +/- 0.4% MoE) women would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included in the survey.
  • The value of this test statistic, (at 4.62 using the formula shown in the significance testing section above), is greater than 1.96. This showed that there was evidence, with a 95% level of confidence, of a statistically significant difference in the two estimates. By calculating the confidence interval for the proportion of men and women who experienced physical violence in the 12 months prior to the survey, it can be seen that the confidence intervals for estimates for men and women do not overlap (where the confidence intervals do not overlap, there is always a statistically significant difference). Therefore there is evidence to suggest that men were more likely than women to have experienced physical violence in the 12 months prior to the survey.
     

20 For information on detailed reliability of estimates, refer to the Data Quality and Technical Notes page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Glossary

Show all

Advice or support

‘Advice or support’ means listening to the respondent, being understanding, making suggestions, giving information, referring respondent to appropriate services, or offering further help of any kind. It includes contacting or visiting any source of help from a friend to a professional organisation, so long as the respondent perceived that they were seeking advice or support. It excludes anyone who was told or found out about the incident/experiences, but from whom the respondent did not actively seek advice or support (e.g. help sought for injuries, which did not involve the respondent seeking advice or support).

Adult

A person aged 18 years or over.

Anxiety or fear

Experiences of anxiety or fear can include constant worry, feeling nervous or jumpy, feeling scared or afraid, unable to calm down, feeling on edge, being panicked or distressed, and not being able to eat or sleep.

Boyfriend/girlfriend or date

This relationship may have different levels of commitment and involvement that does not involve living together. For example, this will include persons who have had one date only, regular dating with no sexual involvement, or a serious sexual or emotional relationship. It excludes de facto relationships.

Co-habiting partner

See Partner.

Current partner

A partner the person currently (at the time of the survey) lives with in a married or de facto relationship.

Disability

A disability or restrictive long-term health condition exists if a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder has lasted, or is expected to last for six months or more, which restricts everyday activities.

A disability or restrictive long-term health condition is classified by whether or not a person has a specific limitation or restriction. The specific limitation or restriction is further classified by whether the limitation or restriction is a limitation in core activities, or a schooling/employment restriction only.

There are four levels of core activity limitation (profound, severe, moderate, mild). These are based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any core activities (self-care, mobility or communication). A person's overall level of core activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in any of these activities.

Refers to the respondent's disability status at the time of the interview. Due to specific interview requirements for PSS, respondents who identified as having a profound or severe disability may be under represented.

For further information refer to the Disability page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Emotional abuse

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.

For the PSS, a person was considered to have experienced emotional abuse where they reported they had been subjected to or experienced one or more of the following behaviours (that were repeated with the intent to prevent or control their behaviour and were intended to cause them emotional harm or fear):

  • Controlled or tried to control them from contacting family, friends or community - Where a partner prevents the respondents social access to any person that they want to see, and where a partner restricts the persons access to environments in which they may make friends (e.g. community or interest groups).
  • Controlled or tried to control them from using the telephone, internet or family car - Where a partner hides the phone/removes the phone cord, puts password protection on the computer/removes the power cord, or hides the car keys. Also includes where a respondent felt that they needed a car, but were restricted from purchasing one by their partner.
  • Controlled or tried to control where they went or who they saw (e.g. Constant phone calls, GPS tracking, monitoring through social media websites) - Where a partner monitors a respondent's activity. Includes actions such as checking all telephone call lists/logs on the phone or on a phone bill, monitoring website history to see what sites that the respondent has visited, or checking mileage on the car odometer.
  • Controlled or tried to control them knowing about or having access to household money - Includes situations where a partner intentionally does not disclose their income to the respondent, or does not give authority for the respondent to operate one or more bank accounts. Includes situations where the respondent receives only an ‘allowance’ from their partner and demands justification of spending (e.g. receipts).
  • Controlled or tried to control them from working or earning money - Includes situations where a partner prevents a respondent from working or restricts the number of hours they can work. Also includes situations where a respondent has expressed interest in gaining employment, and their partner has either restricted them from this, or has forcibly ‘talked them out of’ it (e.g. “you should prioritise your family over yourself”, or “who would want to employ you?”). Includes situations where a partner has stopped the respondent from doing volunteer work, or ‘helping out’ a friend/organisation (e.g. reading stories at the children’s school).
  • Controlled or tried to control them from studying - Includes situations where the respondent is not allowed by their partner to study or is forced to only study at limited times/days or hours, and situations where the respondent has expressed interest in study, and their partner has either restricted them from this, or forcibly ‘talked them out of’ this (e.g. “you should prioritise your family over yourself”, or “you aren’t smart enough for that”). Also includes situations where a partner has stopped the respondent from undertaking formal, as well as informal education (e.g. adult learning courses held at local community centres or high schools).
  • Deprived them of basic needs such as food, shelter, sleep or assistive aids - Includes situations where a partner deprives the respondent of any assistive aids’ such as a walking frame, wheelchair or hearing aids etc. Includes situations where a respondent is deprived of medical or psychological care, or is intentionally locked out of the home by a partner. Also includes situations where a respondent is forced to sleep elsewhere (e.g. on the floor, couch etc.), other than a bed and where the respondent is forced to eat differently to their partner (e.g. only rice).
  • Damaged, destroyed or stole any of their property.
  • Constantly insulted them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated - Constant put downs, name calling, bullying or making fun of the respondent (either in company, when the couple are alone, in front of children, etc.). Also includes situations where a partner constantly insults a respondent’s standard of hygiene, appearance, cooking or cleaning etc., or makes them feel 'dumb' or 'useless'.
  • Lied to their child/ren with the intent of turning them against them - Telling the respondent’s children that the respondent doesn’t love them, want them, or have time for them. Any lies or “tall tales” told to the children that were intended to cause the respondent emotional harm or fear.
  • Lied to other family members or friends with the intent of turning them against them.
  • Threatened to take their child/ren away from them.
  • Threatened to harm their child/ren.
  • Threatened to harm their other family members or friends.
  • Threatened to harm any of their pets.
  • Harmed any of their pets.
  • Threatened or tried to commit suicide.
     

The definition of emotional abuse excludes:

  • Cases of nagging (e.g. about spending too much money on fishing gear, or going out with friends) unless this nagging causes them emotional harm or fear.
  • Cases where a spouse has restricted the respondent’s access to money, the car, or the internet as a result of the respondent’s substance abuse, gambling, or compulsive shopping issues unless the respondent perceives that these restrictions cause them emotional harm or fear.
     

For further information, refer to the Partner Emotional Abuse page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Face-to-face threatened assault

Any verbal and/or physical threat to inflict physical harm, made face-to-face, where the person being threatened believed the threat was likely and able to be carried out. Excludes any incident where the person being threatened did not encounter the offender in person (e.g. threats made via telephone, text message, e-mail, in writing or through social media).

Incident

An ‘incident’ is referred to as an event of assault or threat, an occurrence or event of violence, abuse or assault that an individual has encountered in their life.

People were asked about the most recent incident for the eight types of violence (sexual assault, sexual threat, physical assault, physical threat by a male and by a female). Where a person experienced continuous acts of violence by the same perpetrator (e.g. in a domestic violence situation), they may have considered the continuous acts of violence to be a single incident. In these cases, the respondent was instructed to think about the most recent act of violence by that perpetrator when answering the more detailed questions.

It is possible that people have experienced multiple incidents of violence. Where a person has experienced more than one type of violence, they are counted separately in each type of violence they experience but are only counted once in the totals. Components therefore may not add to the totals.

It is also possible that a single incident of violence may involve more than one of these different types of violence. In order to produce valid violence prevalence rates, in the survey a single incident of violence is only counted once. Where an incident involves both a sexual and physical assault, it is counted as a sexual assault, e.g. if in an incident a person is physically assaulted during/as part of a sexual assault: this would be counted once only as a sexual assault. Where an incident involves a person being both threatened with assault and then assaulted, it is counted as an assault, e.g. if in a single incident a perpetrator threatens to sexually assault a person and then sexually assaults them this would be counted only once in the survey as a sexual assault. The same applies for incidents where a person is both physically threatened with assault and then physically assaulted.

Intimate partner

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

For further information, refer to the Partner Violence page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Margin of Error

Margin of Error (MoE), describes the distance from the population value that the sample estimate is likely to be within, and is specified at a given level of confidence. MoEs presented in this publication are at the 95% confidence level. This means that there are 19 chances in 20 that the estimate will differ by less than the specified MoE from the population value (the figure obtained if all dwellings had been enumerated).

For further information, refer to the Technical Note page of this publication.

Other known person

Includes any other known person that does not fit into any of the partner, stranger, or (ex-)boyfriend/girlfriend or date categories. Includes:

  • Father/Mother - Includes step-parents
  • Son/Daughter - Includes step children
  • Brother/Sister - Includes step siblings
  • Other male/female relative or in-law
  • Friend - Someone one knows, likes and trusts
  • Acquaintance/neighbour - An acquaintance is anybody that the person recognises or knows in someway and is not perceived to be a 'stranger'. A neighbour is someone who lives or is located close to the persons place of residence
  • Employer/manager/supervisor
  • Co-worker
  • Teacher/tutor
  • Client/patient/customer
  • Medical practitioner (e.g. Doctor, psychologist, nurse, counsellor)
  • Priest/Minister/Rabbi/ or other spiritual advisor
  • Carer (includes non-family paid or unpaid helper)
  • Any other known person
     

Partner

The term partner in the PSS is used to describe a person the respondent lives with, or lived with at some point in a married or de facto relationship. This may also be described as a co-habiting partner.

In the context of Witnessed Violence however, partner refers to the person who is in a relationship with the respondent’s mother/stepmother and father/stepfather. For further information, refer to the Witness Violence Before the Age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Physical abuse

Any deliberate physical injury (including bruises) inflicted upon a child (under the age of 15 years) by an adult. Excludes discipline that accidentally resulted in injury, emotional abuse, and physical abuse by someone under the age of 18.

For further information, refer to the Abuse Before the Age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Physical assault

Any incident that involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Assaults may have occurred in conjunction with a robbery and includes incidents that occurred on the job, where a person was assaulted in their line of work (e.g. assaulted while working as a security guard), at school or overseas. Examples of physical force include:

  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved - Includes being pushed off a balcony, down stairs or across the room.
  • Slapped - Includes a hit with an open hand.
  • Kicked, bitten or hit with a fist.
  • Hit you with something else that could hurt you - Includes being hit with a bat, hammer, belt, pot, ruler, etc.
  • Beaten - Includes punching, hitting or slapping in a repetitive manner.
  • Choked - Includes being choked by hands, a rope, a scarf, a tie or any other item.
  • Stabbed - With a knife.
  • Shot - With a gun.
  • Any other type of physical assault - Includes burns, scalds, being dragged by the hair or being deliberately hit by a vehicle.


Physical assault excludes incidents that occurred during the course of play on a sporting field and excludes incidents of violence that occurred before the age of 15 (which are defined as physical abuse).

If a person experienced physical assault and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a physical assault. If a person experienced sexual assault and physical assault in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

Physical threat

Any verbal and/or physical intent or suggestion of intent to inflict physical harm, which was made face-to-face and which the person believed was able to be and likely to be carried out. Examples of physical threats include:

  • Threaten or attempt to hit with a fist or anything else that could hurt - Includes threats or attempts to slap, punch, spank or hit in any way with a fist or weapon such as a bat, hammer or pot.
  • Threaten or attempt to stab with a knife.
  • Threaten or attempt to shoot with a gun - The gun may or may not have been aimed at the person. It includes situations where a gun was left in an obvious place or if the person knew that the perpetrator had access to a gun. It includes toy guns, starter pistols etc., if the person believed they were real.
  • Threaten or attempt to physically hurt in any other way.
     

Physical threat excludes any incident in which the threat was actually carried out and incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.

If a person experienced sexual threat and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual threat.

Physical violence

The occurrence, attempt or threat of physical assault experienced by a person since the age of 15.

For further information, refer to the Violence Prevalence and Violence - Most Recent Incident pages in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Population

Females and males aged 18 years and over.

Prevalence of violence

Prevalence of violence 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.

For further information, refer to the Violence Prevalence page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Previous partner

A person that the respondent lived with at some point in a married or de facto relationship from whom the respondent is now separated, divorced or widowed from.

Proxy

A proxy is a person who answers the survey questions when the person selected for the interview is incapable of answering for themselves. Reasons the selected person may not be able to answer for themselves include illness/injury or language difficulties.

For this survey, a proxy was used to complete the general information component on behalf of the selected person. No proxy interviews were conducted on the voluntary components of the survey and therefore data for these selected persons were not used in output. For more details, refer to the Proxy section of the Survey Development and Data Collection page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Relative Standard Error

The Relative Standard Error (RSE) is the standard error expressed as a proportion of an estimated value.

For further information, refer to the Technical Note page of this publication.

Respondent

A person who answers a request for information about oneself.

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.

For further information, refer to the Abuse Before the Age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

​​​​​​​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 incidents of violence that occurred before the age of 15 - these are defined as sexual abuse. It also excludes unwanted sexual touching - this is defined as sexual harassment.

If a person experienced sexual assault and sexual threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault. If an incident of sexual assault also involved physical assault or threats, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

Sexual harassment

Is considered to have occurred when a person has experienced or been subjected to behaviours which made them feel uncomfortable, and were offensive due to their sexual nature. PSS collects information about selected types of sexual harassment behaviours including:

  • Indecent text, email or post - Includes electronic messages (such as text messages, SMS, MMS, posts on Facebook or other internet social networking sites, emails, or other Internet messages), and written messages (such as letters delivered by mail or notes left where a person could find them). Does not include messages in which profanity was used, unless this was offensive due to its sexual content.
  • Indecent exposure - Is the act of exposing genitals for the purpose of distressing, shocking, humiliating and/or generating fear in a person.
  • Inappropriate comments - Includes inappropriate comments in a group situation as well as when the respondent is alone with the person who is harassing them, and sexual comments that are related to the respondent’s race, such as implying that people of a particular cultural group have certain sexual characteristics.
  • Unwanted touching - Is momentary or brief touching or contact and includes groping or brushing against a breast or bottom.
  • Distributing or posting pictures or videos of the person, that were sexual in nature, without their consent - Includes taking a photo or video which was sexual in nature, or showing/sending/posting the photos/videos which were sexual in nature.
  • Exposure to pictures, videos or materials which were sexual in nature that the person did not wish to see - Includes emailing the person or making them watch pornography, and displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature for the person to see.
     

For further information, refer to the Sexual Harassment page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Sexual threat

The threat of acts of a sexual nature that were made face-to-face where the person believed it was able to and likely to be carried out.

If a person experienced sexual assault and sexual threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

​​​​​​​Sexual violence

The occurrence, attempt or threat of sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15.

For further information, refer to the Violence Prevalence and Violence - Most Recent Incident pages in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

​​​​​​​Since the age of 15

Refers to any violence experienced by a person since the age of 15.

Stalking

Stalking involves various behaviours, such as loitering and following, which the person believed were being undertaken with the intent to cause them fear or distress. To be classified as stalking more than one type of behaviour had to occur, or the same type of behaviour had to occur on more than one occasion. Behaviours include:

  • Loitered or hung around outside person's home.
  • Loitered or hung around outside person's workplace.
  • Loitered hung around outside person's place of leisure or social activities.
  • Followed or watched them in person.
  • Followed or watched them using electronic tracking device (e.g. GPS tracking system, computer spyware).
  • Maintained unwanted contact with them by phone, postal mail, email, text messages or social media websites.
  • Posted offensive or unwanted messages, images or personal information on the internet about them.
  • Impersonated them online to damage their reputation.
  • Hacked or accessed their email, social media or other online account without their consent to follow or track them.
  • Gave or left objects where they could be found that were offensive or disturbing.
  • Interfered with or damaged any of their property.
     

For further information, refer to the Stalking page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

​​​​​​​Standard Error

The Standard Error (SE) indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied because only a sample of dwellings was included.

For further information, refer to the Technical Note page of this publication.

​​​​​​​Stranger

Someone the person did not know, or someone they knew by hearsay.

​​​​​​​Violence

In the PSS, violence is defined as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either sexual or physical assault. Violence can be broken down into two main categories, sexual violence and physical violence.

Witness violence before the age of 15

The PSS asks respondents if they ever saw or heard violence being directed at one parent by another before the age of 15. Violence in this context refers to physical assault only.

Mother includes step mothers and female guardians or care-givers. Partner includes the respondent’s father/stepfather, and the mother’s boyfriend or same-sex partner.

Father includes step fathers and male guardians or care-givers. Partner includes the respondent’s mother/stepmother, and the father’s girlfriend or same-sex partner.

For further information, refer to the Witness Violence Before the Age of 15 page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).

Abbreviations

Show all

ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ARAAny responsible adult
ASCEDAustralian Standard of Classification of Education
ASCLAustralian Standard Classification of Language
CAPIComputer assisted personal interview
CASIComputer assisted self interview
COBCountry of Birth
DSSDepartment of Social Services
MMSMulti-media messaging service
MoEMargin of Error
MRIMost recent incident
PSSPersonal Safety Survey
RSERelative Standard Error
SEStandard Error
SMSShort message service
WSSWomen's Safety Survey