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Disability and Violence - In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics

Presents statistics about assault, domestic violence, partner emotional abuse/coercion, sexual harassment, and stalking for persons with disability.

Reference period
April 2021

Key statistics

  • 5.9% of women and 5.6% of men living with disability or a long-term health condition experienced violence in 2016
  • The risk of violence was greater for adults with intellectual/psychological disability than those with physical disability

Summary of findings

This report presents information collected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) and supplementary data drawn from a number of other ABS data sources about experiences, characteristics and outcomes of violence, cohabiting partner violence and emotional abuse, sexual harassment and stalking for persons living with disability.

Risk of violence

The 2016 PSS found that living with disability or a long-term health condition raised the likelihood of experiencing various types of violence for women but not for men. These include physical violence by any perpetrator, violence by a cohabiting partner (physical and/or sexual), emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner, sexual harassment by any perpetrator, and stalking by any perpetrator.

The difference was greatest for violence by a cohabiting partner (physical and/or sexual), where women with disability were twice as likely to experience violence by a cohabiting partner as women without disability.

The rate of sexual violence was similar for women with and without disability or a long-term health condition.

Table 1: Women's 12-month violence prevalence rates by disability status
Type of violence experienced over a 12-month periodWomen with disability or a long-term health conditionWomen without disability or a long-term health condition
Violence by any perpetrator (physical and/or sexual)5.9%4.3%
Physical violence by any perpetrator4.8%2.9%
Sexual violence by any perpetrator2.2%1.6%
Violence by a cohabiting partner (physical and/or sexual)2.5%1.3%
Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner6.3%4.1%
Sexual harassment by any perpetrator19%17%
Stalking by any perpetrator3.7%2.7%

 

For men, disability or a long-term health condition raised the risk of experiencing stalking only (2.5% compared with 1.4%).

Table 2: Men's 12-month violence prevalence rates by disability status
Type of violence experienced over a 12-month periodMen with disability or a long-term health conditionMen without disability or a long-term health condition
Violence by any perpetrator (physical and/or sexual)5.6%6.2%
Physical violence by any perpetrator5.1%5.5%
Sexual violence by any perpetrator0.7%*0.9%*
Violence by a cohabiting partner (physical and/or sexual)1.1%*0.6%*
Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner4.7%3.8%
Sexual harassment by any perpetrator10%8.7%
Stalking by any perpetrator2.5%1.4%

* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

The type and severity of disability were also found to impact on the likelihood of victimisation. Both women and men with intellectual/psychological disability were more likely than those with physical disability to experience violence (physical and/or sexual) and emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner, however the difference was more pronounced for women.

The PSS also found that women living with intellectual/psychological disability were more likely to experience cohabiting partner violence (physical and/or sexual) compared with women living with physical disability.

Table 3: Women's 12-month violence prevalence rates by disability type
Type of violence experienced over a 12-month periodWomen with intellectual/psychological disabilityWomen with physical disability(a)
Violence by any perpetrator (physical and/or sexual)15%5.2%
Violence by a cohabiting partner (physical and/or sexual)6.5%2.2%
Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner12%5.7%
  1. Includes physical disability, sight/hearing/speech disability, and head injury/stroke/brain damage disability.
Table 4: Men's 12-month violence prevalence rates by disability type
Type of violence experienced over a 12-month periodMen with intellectual/psychological disabilityMen with physical disability(a)
Violence by any perpetrator (physical and/or sexual)12%5.8%
Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner6.8%4.7%
  1. Includes physical disability, sight/hearing/speech disability, and head injury/stroke/brain damage disability.

Persons living with disability or a long-term health condition were also more likely to have experienced abuse by an adult before the age of 15. The 2016 PSS found that 20% of adults with disability or a long-term health condition experienced physical and/or sexual abuse before the age of 15, compared with 11% of adults without disability or a long-term health condition.

Socio-demographic characteristics of victims

The 2016 PSS found that for persons living with disability or a long-term health condition the likelihood of experiencing violence (physical and/or sexual) was higher for the following socio-demographic groups:

  • Persons aged 18 to 24 years of age (17%) and 25 to 34 years of age (13%) compared with those aged 35 years and above (all below 10%)
  • Persons belonging to the lowest, second, and third quintiles of socio-economic disadvantage (6.4%, 6.5% and 6.8% respectively) compared with those belonging to the highest (3.5%)
  • Persons born in Australia or overseas in a main English-speaking country (6.2%) compared with those born overseas in a non-main English-speaking country (3.8%)

The 2014 General Social Survey also found that of persons living with disability or a long-term health condition, those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other were more likely to experience physical and/or threatened violence (19%) compared with those who identified as heterosexual (8.2%).

About this report

This report draws on data obtained from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), with supplementary data drawn from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS), the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), and the 2015 and 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC).

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 Survey Technical Note.

The scope of the 2016 PSS was persons aged 18 years and over residing in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas). Persons living in residential care or other institutional settings at the time of the survey were not included. For more information about disability data in the PSS, refer to Appendix 1.

The appendix accompanying this paper discusses how the 2016 PSS sample adequately represents persons with disability and their experiences of violence; use of proxy interviews in the PSS; and guidelines for using ABS disability and violence data.

Persons living with disability

The 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) found that:

  • 18% or 4.4 million people were living with disability and a further 22% (5.5 million) had a long-term health condition but no disability
  • The prevalence of disability increased with age, with 12% of people aged 64 years and under and 50% of people aged 65 years and over living with disability
  • The prevalence of disability was similar for males and females (both 18%)
  • 187,800 Australians living with disability were residing in cared accommodation in 2018, including hospitals, nursing homes, aged care hostels, and other cared accommodation.

    All persons by disability status, 2018

    Conceptual framework flow chart: All persons, by disability status, 2018

    All persons by disability status, 2018

    The flow chart begins with the total Australian population of 24.7 million persons. Of these, 18% (4.4 million) have a disability, 22% (5.5 million) have a long-term health condition but no disability, and 60% (14.8 million) have no disability or long-term health condition. Persons with disability who have a core activity limitation are further classified according to their level of core activity limitation. This includes 780,200 who have a profound limitation, 632,900 who have a severe limitation, 601,400 who have a moderate limitation, and 1.5 million who have a mild limitation. Some persons with disability do not have a specific restriction or limitation, or have a schooling or employment restriction only.
    1. For more information on the terms used, refer to the Glossary of the Survey of Disability, Ageing, and Carers publication.
    2. Includes those who have a core activity limitation and/or a schooling or employment restriction, and those who do not have a specific restriction or limitation.

    Experiences of violent behaviours

    The PSS collects information about a person’s socio-demographic characteristics, including disability status, at the time of interview. However, an individual’s socio-demographic characteristics can change over time – for example they can move interstate, transition into or out of the labour force, or acquire disability or a long-term health condition.

    For this reason, a person’s disability status at the time of interview may not be reflective of their status at the time they experienced violence, particularly if the violence occurred a long time ago. To understand how disability intersects with violence as a risk factor, the analysis undertaken has restricted data to recent experiences of violence, usually in the last one or two years from the time of interview, as it is less likely that the respondent’s disability status or type has changed significantly in that period of time. Refer to Appendix 1 for further information.

    The following section provides information about the number of persons living with disability or a long-term health condition in Australia who experienced different types of violence in 2016.

    For definitions of the various types of violence refer to the Personal Safety Survey Glossary.

    Violence, stalking, and sexual harassment

    In 2016, of persons living with disability or a long-term health condition:

    • 5.7% experienced physical and/or sexual violence (330,400), including 5.9% of women and 5.6% of men
    • 5.0% experienced physical violence (288,700), including 4.8% of women and 5.1% of men
    • 1.4% experienced sexual violence (78,700), including 2.2% of women and 0.7%* of men
    • 3.1% experienced stalking (180,200), including 3.7% of women and 2.5% of men
    • 15% experienced sexual harassment (859,500), including 19% of women and 10% of men
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    Cohabiting partner violence and emotional abuse

    The term cohabiting 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 partner.

    In 2016, of persons living with disability or a long-term health condition:

    • 1.8% experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner (102,300), including 2.5% of women and 1.1%* of men
    • 5.6% experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner (322,300), including 6.3% of women and 4.7% of men
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    Changes in violence prevalence rates

    The following section examines whether there was a statistically significant change in the prevalence of violence between 2012 and 2016 for persons living with disability or a long-term health condition.

    Physical and sexual violence

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced physical violence decreased from 6.9% in 2012 to 5.0% in 2016. The decrease was statistically significant for men (declining from 8.9% in 2012 to 5.1% in 2016), but not for women (5.0% in 2012 and 4.8% in 2016). Both findings are reflective of the results for the general male and female population.

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced sexual violence remained stable at 1.3% in 2012 and 1.4% in 2016. The rate was stable for both men (0.8%* in 2012 and 0.7%* in 2016), and women (1.7% in 2012 and 2.2% in 2016). This differed to the result for the general female population, where there was an increase in the prevalence of sexual violence from 1.2% in 2012 to 1.8% in 2016.

    Stalking

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced stalking decreased from 4.6% in 2012 to 3.1% in 2016. The decrease was statistically significant for women (declining from 5.5% in 2012 to 3.7% in 2016), but not for men (3.7% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2016). Both findings are reflective of the results for the general male and female population.

    Sexual harassment

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced sexual harassment increased from 12% in 2012 to 15% in 2016. The increase was not statistically significant when the data was disaggregated by sex. The prevalence rate of sexual harassment for men was 7.7% in 2012 and 10% in 2016, while the rate for women was 17% in 2012 and 19% in 2016. The increase in the prevalence rate of sexual harassment between 2012 and 2016 for persons with disability or a long-term health condition was reflective of the results for the general population.

    Cohabiting partner violence and emotional abuse

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced violence by a cohabiting partner increased from 1.2% in 2012 to 1.8% in 2016. The increase was not statistically significant when the data was disaggregated by sex. The prevalence rate of violence by a cohabiting partner for men was 0.5%* in 2012 and 1.1%* in 2016, while the rate for women was 1.9% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2016. The increase in the prevalence rate of cohabiting partner violence between 2012 and 2016 for persons with disability or a long-term health condition was not reflective of the results for the general population, where there was no statistically significant change over the same time period.

    The proportion of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner increased from 4.5% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2016. The increase was statistically significant for men (increasing from 2.8% in 2012 to 4.7% in 2016), but not for women (6.1% in 2012 and 6.3% in 2016). Both findings are reflective of the results for the general male and female population.

    Experiences of violence by disability type and severity

    In the PSS, information for persons with disability or a long-term health condition can be disaggregated by the following types of disability:

    • Sight, hearing, speech
    • Physical
    • Intellectual
    • Psychological
    • Head injury, stroke, or brain damage
    • Not specified

    For persons with disability who have a limitation or restriction in core activities, disability severity is categorised into four levels of core activity limitation: profound, severe, moderate, and 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). For more information refer to the Disability topic in the Survey Content chapter of Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016.

    For the purpose of this analysis, an aggregate ‘physical disability’ category has been created, which combines physical disability, sight/hearing/speech disability, and head injury/stroke/brain damage disability. Respondents may have reported more than one type of disability.

    This section compares differences in the prevalence of violence by disability type and disability severity for women and men.

    Intellectual/psychological and physical disability

    Women with intellectual/psychological disability were more likely than women with physical disability to experience the following types of violence in 2016:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator (15% compared with 5.2%)
    • Cohabiting partner violence (6.5% compared with 2.2%)
    • Cohabiting partner emotional abuse (12% compared with 5.7%)

    Men with intellectual/psychological disability were more likely than men with physical disability to experience the following types of violence in 2016:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator (12% compared with 5.8%)
    • Cohabiting partner emotional abuse (6.8% compared with 4.7%)

    Profound/severe and mild core activity limitation

    Women with profound/severe core activity limitation were more likely than women with mild core activity limitation to experience the following types of violence in 2016:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator (8.3% compared with 4.1%)
    • Cohabiting partner emotional abuse (7.3% compared with 5.5%)

    Equivalent data for men was not of sufficient quality to undertake reliable analysis due to higher relative standard error values.

    Experiences of violence by disability status

    In 2016, persons living with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely to experience the following types of violence compared with persons without disability or a long-term health condition:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner (1.8% compared with 1.0%)
    • Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner (5.6% compared with 4.0%)
    • Sexual harassment (15% compared with 13%)
    • Stalking (3.1% compared with 2.1%)

    The differences in violence prevalence rates between persons with and without disability or a long-term health condition were more pronounced for women than for men.

    Women's experiences of violence by disability status

    In 2016, women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to experience:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator (5.9% compared with 4.3%)
    • Physical violence (4.8% compared with 2.9%)
    • Sexual harassment (19% compared with 17%)
    • Stalking (3.7% compared with 2.7%)

    The proportion of women who experienced sexual violence in 2016 was similar for both women with and without disability or a long-term health condition.

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    In 2016, women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to experience:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner (2.5% compared with 1.3%)
    • Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner (6.3% compared with 4.1%)
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    Men's experiences of violence by disability status

    In 2016, men with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than men without disability or a long-term health condition to experience stalking (2.5% compared with 1.4%).

    During the same time period, men with disability or a long-term health condition were about as likely as men without disability or a long-term health condition to experience physical and/or sexual violence (5.6% compared with 6.2%) and sexual harassment (10% compared with 8.7%).

    Download

    * Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

    In 2016, men with disability or a long-term health condition were about as likely as men without disability or a long-term health condition to experience:

    • Physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner (1.1%* compared with 0.6%*)
    • Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner (4.7% compared with 3.8%)
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    * Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

    1. While there may appear to be a difference, when the sampling error of these estimates is taken into consideration, the differences in these estimates are not statistically significant.

    Abuse before the age of 15

    The PSS collects information about any experiences of abuse (physical and sexual) before the age of 15, perpetrated by an adult. As disability status is determined based on the respondent’s conditions at the time of the survey, it does not necessarily indicate whether the respondent had disability at the time they experienced abuse before the age of 15.

    Persons with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely to have experienced abuse by an adult before the age of 15 than persons without disability:

    • 20% of persons with disability or a long-term health condition experienced physical and/or sexual abuse before the age of 15, compared with 11% of persons without disability or a long-term health condition
    • 12% of persons with disability or a long-term health condition experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15, compared with 5.8% of persons without disability or a long-term health condition
    • 13% of persons with disability or a long-term health condition experienced physical abuse before the age of 15, compared with 6.4% of persons without disability or a long-term health condition

    Socio-demographic characteristics

    This section discusses the socio-demographic characteristics (at the time of survey) of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced violence (physical and/or sexual) in the 12 months prior to interview in 2016. This information may be useful in understanding the profile of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who are more likely to have experienced violence. However, it cannot be used to draw causal conclusions about the relationship between one variable and another.

    Age

    Young persons living with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely to experience violence (physical and/or sexual) than older persons living with disability or a long-term health condition.  Compared with the overall violence prevalence rate of 5.7% for persons with disability or a long-term health condition:

    • Persons aged 18 to 24 years and 25 to 34 years were more likely to have experienced violence in 2016 (17% and 13% respectively)
    • Persons aged 55 years and over were less likely to have experienced violence in 2016 (2.3%)

    This finding reflects the result for the general population, with younger persons more likely to be victims of violence than older persons. Refer to Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 for further information.

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    1. Includes physical violence and/or sexual violence.

    Sex

    In 2016, women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than men with disability or a long-term health condition to experience:

    • Sexual violence (2.2% compared with 0.7%*)
    • Sexual harassment (19% compared with 10%)
    • Physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner (2.5% compared with 1.1%*)
    • Emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner (6.3% compared with 4.7%)

    The difference for emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner does not reflect the results for the general population, where women and men experienced it at a similar rate (4.8% compared with 4.2%). Furthermore, in the general population:

    • Men were more likely than women to experience physical violence in 2016 (5.4% compared with 3.5%), whereas the rate was similar for men and women living with disability or a long-term health condition (5.1% compared with 4.8%)
    • Women were more likely than men to experience stalking in 2016 (3.1% compared with 1.7%), whereas the rate was similar for women and men living with disability or a long-term health condition (3.7% compared with 2.5%)

    Socio-economic indexes for areas (SEIFA)

    The Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage and Disadvantage ranks areas on a continuum from most disadvantaged to most advantaged. Lower quintiles indicate greater levels of disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general compared with higher quintiles.

    Persons with disability or a long-term health condition in the lowest quintile were more likely to experience violence (physical and/or sexual) in 2016 than persons with disability or a long-term health condition in the highest quintile (6.4% compared with 3.5%). This differs to the finding in the general population, where men and women in the lowest quintile were about as likely to experience violence in 2016 as men and women in the highest quintile.

    Sexual orientation

    The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) found that persons with disability or a long-term health condition who identified as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other sexual orientation were more likely than persons with disability or a long-term health condition who identified as heterosexual to experience physical or threatened violence in 2014-15 (19% compared with 8.2%). This reflects the finding for the general population, where those who identified as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other sexual orientation were more likely than those who identified as heterosexual to experience physical or threatened violence over the same time period (16% compared with 7.8%).

    Indigenous status

    The data presented here have been obtained from the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.

    The 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) collected information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences of physical and threatened violence in the 12 months prior to survey. The survey found that both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women living with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely to experience physical or threatened violence than men and women without disability or a long-term health condition:

    • 24% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living with disability or a long-term health condition experienced physical or threatened violence in 2014-15, compared with 15% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women without disability or a long-term health condition
    • 25% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men living with disability or a long-term health condition experienced physical or threatened violence in 2014-15, compared with 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men without disability or a long-term health condition

    Country of birth

    The 2016 PSS found that persons with disability or a long-term health condition who were born in Australia or overseas in a main English-speaking country were more likely than persons with disability or a long-term health condition born overseas in a non-main English-speaking country to experience violence (physical and/or sexual) in 2016 (6.2% compared with 3.8%). This reflects the finding for the general population, where those born in Australia or overseas in a main English-speaking country were more likely than those born overseas in a non-main English-speaking country to experience violence over the same time period (5.8% compared with 3.8%).

    Note: Overseas main English-speaking countries include Canada, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

    Life satisfaction

    Persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced violence (physical and/or sexual) in 2016 were more likely to report low levels of life satisfaction than persons with disability or a long-term health condition who did not experience violence.

    Of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who experienced violence in 2016, 22% rated their overall life satisfaction as 4 or less (out of 10), compared with 11% of persons with disability or a long-term health condition who did not experience violence.

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    1. Includes physical violence and/or sexual violence.

    Characteristics of assault

    The information presented below refers to the most recent incident of physical assault by a male, physical assault by a female, and sexual assault by a male, experienced by men and women with disability or a long-term health condition which occurred in the two years prior to the 2016 survey (unless otherwise stated).

    Of women with disability or a long-term health condition:

    • 136,800 experienced physical assault by a male in the last two years
    • 71,500 experienced sexual assault by a male in the last two years
    • 39,200 experienced physical assault by a female in the last two years

    Of men with disability or a long-term health condition:

    • 140,100 experienced physical assault by a male in the last two years
    • 76,000 experienced physical assault by a female in the last two years

    Relationship to perpetrator

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced the following types of assault knew the perpetrator of the most recent incident:

    • Physical assault by a male (91% and 87%)
    • Sexual assault by a male (88% and 87%)

    Women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to know the perpetrator of the most recent incident of physical assault by a female (92% compared with 67%).

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition knew the perpetrator of the most recent incident of physical assault by a female (88% compared with 92%).

    Men with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than men without disability or a long-term health condition to know the perpetrator of the most recent incident of physical assault by a male (50% compared with 30%).

    Location

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced the following types of assault experienced the most recent incident in a home location:

    • Sexual assault by a male (72% and 62%)
    • Physical assault by a female (54% and 48%*)

    Women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to experience the most recent incident of physical assault by a male in a home location (82% compared with 68%).

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced physical assault by a female experienced their most recent incident in a home location (75% compared with 79%).

    Men with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than men without disability or a long-term health condition to experience their most recent incident of physical assault by a male in a home location (29% compared with 12%*).

    Contribution of alcohol or other substances

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault perceived that alcohol or another substance contributed to the most recent incident for all types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (46% and 53%)
    • Sexual assault by a male (54% and 49%)
    • Physical assault by a female (50% and 38%)

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault perceived that alcohol or another substance contributed to the most recent incident for both types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (65% and 72%)
    • Physical assault by a female (41% and 43%)

    Injuries sustained

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault sustained an injury in the most recent incident for the following types of assault:

    • Physical assault by a male (52% and 45%)
    • Physical assault by a female (47% and 46%*)

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault sustained an injury in the most recent incident for both types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (50% and 41%)
    • Physical assault by a female (31% and 34%)

    Police contact

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault did not report their most recent incident to police for all types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (70% and 72%)
    • Sexual assault by a male (91% and 90%)
    • Physical assault by a female (70% and 77%)

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault did not report their most recent incident to police for both types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (58% and 66%)
    • Physical assault by a female (74% and 80%)

    Seeking advice or support

    A similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault sought advice or support after the most recent incident for the following types of assault:

    • Physical assault by a male (66% and 61%)
    • Physical assault by a female (64% and 54%)

    Women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to seek advice or support after the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male (65% compared with 48%).

    A similar proportion of men with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault sought advice or support after the most recent incident for both types of assault, including:

    • Physical assault by a male (49% and 41%)
    • Physical assault by a female (29% and 40%)

    Experience of anxiety or fear for personal safety

    In 2016, a similar proportion of women with and without disability or a long-term health condition who experienced assault in the last two years experienced anxiety or fear for their personal safety in the 12 months after the most recent incident for the following types of assault:

    • Sexual assault by a male (64% and 50%)
    • Physical assault by a female (52% and 39%*)

    Women with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than women without disability or a long-term health condition to experience anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent incident of physical assault by a male (74% compared with 56%).

    In 2016, men with disability or a long-term health condition were more likely than men without disability or a long-term health condition to experience anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the most recent incident of physical assault by a male (40% compared with 23%).

    Appendix 1 - Conceptual information

    Correct use of time frames when analysing experiences of violence for persons with disability

    To measure the prevalence of violence for persons with disability in a given population, shorter time frames – usually the last 12 months – should be used.

    ABS household surveys collect information about a person’s socio-demographic characteristics, including disability status, at the time of interview. These characteristics are not always static and can change over time. For example, people can move interstate, transition into or out of the labour force, or acquire disability or a long-term health condition. For this reason, a person’s disability status at the time of interview may not be reflective of their status at the time they experienced violence, particularly if the violence occurred a long time ago.

    The two main time frames used to present violence prevalence rates in the PSS are the last 12 months and since the age of 15. To understand how disability intersects with violence as a risk factor, analysis should be restricted to recent experiences of violence, usually the last one or two years. To understand how many people with disability or a long-term health condition may require access to support services for past experiences of violence, using a longer timeframe is more appropriate (e.g. since the age of 15 or the last ten years for characteristics of the most recent incident).

    Representation of persons with disability in the PSS 2016 sample

    The PSS uses a standard set of sixteen questions designed to identify whether a person has disability or a long-term health condition, the type(s) of disability that they have, and the level of severity in terms of core activity restrictions and limitations. Disability prevalence data obtained through the PSS aligns well with other ABS sources of disability prevalence data, including other social and health surveys and the Survey of Disability, Aging, and Carers (SDAC).

    Persons living with disability or a long-term health condition comprised one-third of the 2016 PSS fully responding sample (7,086 respondents out of a fully responding sample of 21,242). The large contributing sample of persons with disability or a long-term health condition enables the PSS to produce reliable and robust estimates across the different disability severity classifications for the majority of age groups.

    Thus, for national statistical purposes, the PSS is a statistically robust and representative source of data about persons with disability or a long-term health condition and their experiences of violence. This data is fit for purpose for measuring and monitoring national victimisation rates over time for persons with disability.

    However, it is acknowledged that the scope of the survey does not include all persons with disability. The survey is not administered to the estimated 201,100 adults with disability or a long-term health condition residing in cared accommodation, who comprise 1.1% of the adult population. Furthermore, data cannot be collected from the estimated 24,900 adult household residents with a communication disability who cannot be understood at all by someone they do not know, who comprise 0.1% of the adult population.¹

    Exclusion of persons with disability residing in institutional settings from PSS coverage

    Persons residing in institutional settings are excluded from PSS coverage. This includes persons with disability living in hospitals, nursing homes, aged care hostels, and other cared accommodation.

    Collecting information directly from persons with disability living in cared accommodation using private face-to-face interviews presents a number of challenges. It would require the cooperation and authorisation of accommodation administrators, as the information collected may have legal ramifications. Consent would also need to be sought from legal guardians and carers where relevant regarding the participation of persons they are responsible for, who may have reason to refuse to provide consent.

    Furthermore, some respondents may be reluctant to disclose any incidents of violence, abuse, neglect, or exploitation that they have experienced within the cared accommodation facility, out of a fear for their safety or due to explicit threats and intimidation.

    Respondents may also not be able to accurately recall and communicate their experiences. The 2015 SDAC found that the likelihood of a person with disability living in cared accommodation increased with age and disability severity.  The survey estimated that half of persons living in cared accommodation had dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and the proportion of residents with cognitive impairment could be as high as three in four (74%).²

    Given the concerns outlined above, using the PSS as a survey vehicle to collect information from persons with disability living in institutional settings about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation is not considered a feasible or reliable data collection strategy at this stage.

    The exclusion of persons with disability living in institutional settings from the coverage of the PSS does not impact on the overall national representativeness of persons with disability or a long-term health condition in the PSS sample.

    Proxy interviews in the PSS and how they impact data for persons with disability

    A proxy is a person (guardian or carer) who answers survey questions when the person selected for the interview is incapable of answering for themselves. This includes persons with severe communication disability who are unable to communicate with the interviewer independently, and require a proxy to answer on behalf of them. However, sensitive questions about experiences of violence are not asked during proxy interviews. As such, a small number of persons with severe communication disability that prevents them from responding to survey questions themselves are excluded from the sensitive component of the survey.

    Although some data can be collected via a proxy who answers on behalf of the respondent (e.g. another family member or carer), additional considerations need to be taken into account when asking questions of the proxy about sensitive topics such as violence.

    Using a proxy to answer sensitive questions about experiences of violence on behalf of the respondent can compromise the quality and reliability of data. The proxy may not have accurate information about the respondent’s past and present experiences, or may have reasons not to disclose any incidents of violence, particularly if they are a perpetrator of violence towards the respondent. Given these concerns, proxy interviews are not an effective method of collecting reliable data about experiences of violence for persons with severe communication disabilities.

    While there is a small underrepresentation of persons with a communication disability who are unable to communicate at all, this does not impact on the overall national representativeness of persons with disability in the PSS sample.

    Footnotes

    1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia
    2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Customised data

    Abbreviations

    Show all

    ABS

    Australian Bureau of Statistics

    GSS

    General Social Survey

    NATSISS

    National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

    PSS

    Personal Safety Survey

    SDAC

    Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

     

    Data downloads

    Violence prevalence and time series (Tables 1 to 5)

    National 12-month prevalence rates for violence, cohabiting partner violence and emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and stalking, by disability status and disability type.
    Changes in prevalence rates between 2012 and 2016 for persons with disability.
    Experiences of abuse before the age of 15 by disability status.

    Socio-demographic characteristics of persons experiencing violence (Tables 6 to 12)

    Experiences of violence in the previous 12 months by disability status and socio-demographic characteristics, including age, geography, labour force status, educational attainment, household weekly income, socio-economic status, country of birth, overall life satisfaction, and self-assessed health status.
    Experiences of physical or threatened violence by disability status, sexual orientation, and Indigenous status.

    Characteristics of the most recent incident of assault (Tables 13 to 14)

    Characteristics of the most recent incident of assault in the last two years by disability status, including relationship to perpetrator, location, involvement of alcohol or other substances, physical injuries, police contact, advice or support sought, and anxiety or fear for personal safety.

    All data cubes

    All Disability and violence data download files.