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Partner Violence - In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics

Presents additional statistics from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey on women's experiences of domestic violence and physical assault by a partner

Reference period
January 2020

Key statistics

  • The 2016 PSS found financial stress, unemployment, the presence of a disability or a long-term health condition, poor or fair health, and low levels of life satisfaction were associated with women's experience of partner violence.

Introduction and key findings

Key findings

  • Sociodemographic variables that were associated with higher rates of partner violence for women include single parenthood, financial stress, unemployment, disability or a long-term health condition, poor or fair self-reported health status, and low levels of life satisfaction.
  • Compared with women who were physically assaulted by another known male (other than a partner), women who were physically assaulted by a male partner were more likely to have experienced multiple and higher severity assault behaviours; been physically injured as a result of the incident; and sought advice or support from a general practitioner following the incident.
  • Women who wanted but were unable to leave their violent current partner were over twice as likely to experience anxiety or fear due to the violence as women who did not want to leave their violent current partner.
     

Introduction

This article presents additional analysis of partner violence data collected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), and addresses policy questions highlighted in the ABS publication Defining the Data Challenge for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence (ABS cat. no. 4529.0).

The article is divided into four sections:

  • Sociodemographic characteristics of women who have experienced partner violence;
  • Characteristics of the most recent incident of physical assault by a male;
  • Separations from a violent partner; and
  • Characteristics of partner violence.
     

The statistics presented throughout the article are available as data tables in Excel spreadsheet format and can be accessed from the Data downloads section. The data tables contain number and proportion estimates, and their corresponding relative standard errors.

While the PSS collects the same information from both men and women, detailed partner violence data for men is not sufficiently statistically reliable for the analytical purposes of this article. When cross-tabulating data about men’s experiences of partner violence with other variables of interest, the data quality diminishes as a result of the comparatively fewer number of men that have experienced partner violence. For more information about data quality refer to the Personal Safety Survey Technical Note (ABS cat. no. 4906.0). Data about men’s experiences of partner violence are available in Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0).

Sociodemographic characteristics of women who have experienced partner violence

This section provides a detailed analysis of the sociodemographic characteristics of women who have experienced partner violence, and how rates of partner violence compare across different sub-populations in Australia.

In the 2016 PSS, a partner is defined as a person the survey respondent currently lives with, or has lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship (co-habiting partner). It does not include violence by a boyfriend/girlfriend or date, or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

Violence is defined as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault.

All comparisons discussed have been tested for statistical significance with a 95% level of confidence that there is a real difference in the two populations being tested. Figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. For more information about significance testing and relative standard error refer to the Personal Safety Survey Technical Note (ABS cat. no. 4906.0).

Prevalence of partner violence in Australia

Data source: Table 3, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)

An estimated one in six Australian women (1.6 million or 17%) aged 18 years and over experienced partner violence since the age of 15.

Changes in the prevalence of partner violence over time

Data source: Table 2, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)

The proportion of women who experienced partner violence in the previous 12 months has remained relatively stable over the last decade. In 2005, approximately 1.5% of women aged 18 years and over experienced partner violence in the previous 12 months, whilst in 2016 the figure was 1.7%.

Experiences of partner violence in the last two years

This section provides an analysis of the sociodemographic characteristics of women who have experienced partner violence in the last two years (255,600 women or 2.7% of women aged 18 years and over).

Sociodemographic characteristics are determined based on the respondent’s conditions at the time of the survey. This means it cannot be assumed that these characteristics would have remained the same between the experience of partner violence and the time of interview in all cases. Refer to Endnote 1 for more information.

Whilst the analysis may be useful in understanding the profile of women who are more likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years, the data should not be used to establish a causal relationship between sociodemographic variables and experiences of partner violence. Refer to Endnote 2 for more information.

Household characteristics

Data source: Table 1, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

State/territory

There were no state/territory differences in the prevalence of partner violence towards women in the last two years when compared with the national prevalence rate of 2.7%.

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Remoteness

Women who lived in a capital city experienced partner violence in the last two years at a similar rate as women who lived outside of a capital city (2.5% compared with 3.2%).

Similarly, there were no statistically significant differences in the likelihood of experiencing partner violence in the last two years between women living in major cities (2.5%), inner regional Australia (3.0%), and outer regional and remote Australia (3.9%).

Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA)

SEIFA is an ABS measure of relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage that broadly ranks areas in Australia according to results from the most recent Census data. Areas are grouped into five quintiles, from lowest quintile to highest quintile, with higher quintiles indicating that the respondent lives in an area of higher socio-economic advantage.

When ranked according to SEIFA, women belonging to the highest quintile (highest socio-economic advantage) were the least likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years. These women experienced partner violence in the last two years at a rate of 1.8%. This was lower than all other quintiles which ranged from 2.8% to 3.4%.

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Family composition of household

Women living in single parent households were the most likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years. An estimated 8.1% of all women living in single parent households had experienced partner violence in the last two years, which was over three times higher than all remaining types of households.

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  1. Includes couple family with dependent children only and couple family with dependent children and other persons.
  2. Includes one parent family with dependent children only and one parent family with dependent children and other persons. 
  3. Includes other one family households, multiple family households with dependent children, multiple family households with no dependent children, and group households.
     

Household ability to raise $2,000 within a week

Women who reported that their household would have difficulty suddenly raising $2,000 within a week for something important were more likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years. Women who reported this difficulty experienced partner violence at a rate of 5.8% (79,100 women), compared with 2.1% of women who reported no difficulty in being able to raise $2,000 for something important (160,600 women).

Person characteristics

Data source: Table 2, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

Age

Women aged 25 to 34 years were more likely to experience partner violence in the last two years (4.4%) than women aged 18 to 24 (2.7%), 45 to 54 (2.6%), and 55 years and over (1.2%).

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  1.  Refers to age at the time of interview.
     

Country of birth

Women who were born overseas in countries where the main language spoken is not English were less likely to experience partner violence in the last two years (1.7%) than women who were born in Australia (3.1%) and women who were born overseas where the main language spoken was English (2.9%).

Overseas main English-speaking countries comprise the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America and South Africa.

Labour force

Women who were unemployed were more likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years (*6.3%) than women who were employed (2.7%) and women who were not in the labour force (2.5%).

Education

Non-school qualifications are those completed above year 12 (including diplomas, certificates, and university degrees).

There was no difference in the prevalence of partner violence in the last two years between women who had a non-school qualification and women who did not have a non-school qualification (2.8% and 2.7%).

Social marital status

Social marital status includes de-facto relationships.

Women who were living in a de-facto relationship were more likely to experience violence from a partner in the last two years (4.9%) than women who were in a registered marriage (1.8%).

Of all women who have experienced partner violence in the last two years, it is estimated that:

  • 120,000 are not married;
  • 83,400 are in a registered marriage; and
  • 50,200 are in a de-facto relationship.
     

Disability or long-term health condition

Women who had a disability or long-term health condition were more likely than women without a disability or long-term health condition to have experienced partner violence in the last two years (3.9% compared with 2.2%).

An estimated 113,700 women with a disability or long-term health condition experienced partner violence in the last two years.

Social connectedness

The PSS asks respondents about their ability to ask for assistance from persons living outside the household, and their social contact with persons outside the household in the last 3 months.

There was no statistically significant difference in the prevalence of partner violence in the last two years between women who were able and unable to ask for assistance from persons living outside the household (2.7% and 4.1%), and women who had and did not have face-to-face social contact with persons outside the household in the last 3 months (2.7% and 3.0%).

Self-reported health status

The PSS asks respondents to self-report their health status as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

Women who rated their health as fair or poor were more likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years (4.7%) than women who rated their health as excellent or very good (2.2%) or good (2.8%).

Overall life satisfaction

The PSS asks respondents to rate their overall life satisfaction on a scale from zero (not at all satisfied) to ten (completely satisfied).

Women with lower levels of life satisfaction were more likely to experience partner violence in the last two years than women with higher levels of life satisfaction. An estimated 1.9% of women who reported a life satisfaction rating of between seven and ten experienced partner violence in the last two years, compared with 6.6% of women who reported a life satisfaction rating of between four and six, and 8.5% of women who reported a life satisfaction rating of between zero and three.

Endnotes

Endnote 1

The PSS collects information about a person’s current sociodemographic characteristics at the time of interview.

An individual’s sociodemographic characteristics can change over time – for example they can move interstate, transition into or out of the labour force, or gain an educational qualification.

For this reason, the sociodemographic characteristics of a person at the time of interview may not be reflective of their characteristics at the time they experienced violence, particularly if the violence occurred a long time ago, in which case their current sociodemographic characteristics are unlikely to prove informative in understanding their experience of violence.

The data contained in this chapter restricts the timeframe of experiencing partner violence to the previous two years, in order to minimise the likelihood of the respondent’s sociodemographic characteristics shifting drastically between the time they experienced partner violence and the time of interview.

Endnote 2

Partner violence also occurs within a complex environment of social structures and relationship dynamics. The information contained in this section may be useful in understanding the profile of women who are more likely to have experienced recent partner violence. However, it cannot be used to draw causal conclusions about the relationship between one variable and another.

Characteristics of the most recent incident of physical assault by a male

The PSS asks women to provide information about their most recent incident of physical assault by a male in the last ten years.

This section explores differences in the characteristics of physical assault incidents perpetrated by a male partner compared with incidents perpetrated by a male stranger or another known male (e.g. family member, boyfriend doesn’t live with, friend, client, patient, colleague), in the last ten years.

The characteristics of the most recent incident are not necessarily representative of all incidents. Refer to Endnote 1 for more information.

In the 2016 PSS, a partner is defined as a person the respondent currently lives with, or has lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship (co-habiting partner). It does not include violence by a boyfriend/girlfriend or date, or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

Physical assault is defined as any incident that involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person.

All comparisons discussed have been tested for statistical significance with a 95% level of confidence that there is a real difference in the two populations being tested. Figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. For more information about significance testing and relative standard error refer to the Personal Safety Survey Technical Note (ABS cat. no. 4906.0).

Women's experiences of physical assault by a male in the last ten years

Data source: Table 3, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

An estimated 1.1 million women experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator in the last ten years.

Location

Of all women who had experienced physical assault by a male, 79% experienced their most recent incident in a home location.

Incidents of physical assault by a male partner were more likely to occur in a home location (96%) than incidents of physical assault by another known male (69%).

Involvement of alcohol or other substances

Around half (49%) of women who experienced physical assault by a male reported that alcohol or another substance contributed to the most recent incident.

Alcohol or another substance was more likely to be involved in incidents perpetrated by a male partner (51%) than incidents by another known male (43%).

Incidents perpetrated by a male stranger were the most likely to have alcohol or another substance involved (64%).

Reporting to police

One-third (31%) of women had their most recent incident of physical assault by a male reported to police.

Women whose most recent incident of physical assault by a male was perpetrated by a partner were more likely to have had the incident reported to police (34%), compared with women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by another known male (27%) or a male stranger (26%).

Perception of the incident as a crime at the time

Women who experienced physical assault by a male were more likely to consider their most recent incident to be either a crime (40%) or wrong but not a crime (40%), than to consider it as something that just happens (13%).

The relationship to different male perpetrator types (partner, other known person or stranger) did not impact on women’s perceptions of whether the incident was a crime.

Physical assault behaviours

Of all women who experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator the most common physical assault behaviours included:

  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved (71%); and
  • Had something thrown at them (36%).
     

Women were able to report more than one type of physical assault behaviour.

Women who experienced physical assault by a male partner were more likely to experience multiple physical assault behaviours in the one incident and also more likely to report higher severity assault behaviours (e.g. choked), compared with other male perpetrator types.

Compared with women whose most recent incident of physical assault was perpetrated by a male stranger, women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by a male partner were more likely to have experienced the following physical assault behaviours:

  • Had something thrown at them (40% compared with *22%); and
  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved (76% compared with 63%).


Compared with women whose most recent incident of physical assault was perpetrated by another known male, women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by a male partner were more likely to have experienced the following physical assault behaviours:

  • Had something thrown at them (40% compared with 31%);
  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved (76% compared with 67%);
  • Kicked, bitten or hit with a fist (28% compared with 20%); and
  • Choked (21% compared with 15%).
     
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  1. More than one physical assault behaviour may have been reported.
  2. Includes current partner and previous partner.
  3. Includes father, brother, other male relative or in-law, boyfriend or date, ex-boyfriend, friend or housemate, acquaintance or neighbour, employer, manager, supervisor, or co-worker, client, patient, or customer, teacher, tutor, or carer, medical practitioner, priest, minister, rabbi or other spiritual advisor, and other.
  4. Includes stabbed or shot and any other type of physical assault.
     

Physical injuries

Around half (51%) of all women who experienced physical assault by a male were physically injured in the most recent incident.

Women whose most recent incident of physical assault was perpetrated by a male partner were more likely to be physically injured in the incident (58%) than women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by another known male (45%) or a male stranger (29%).

Seeking advice or support

Of all women who had experienced physical assault by a male, 62% sought advice or support after their most recent incident.

Women were able to report more than one source of advice or support.

The most common sources of advice or support were family or friends (39%), followed by a general practitioner (16%) and a counsellor or support worker (16%).

Women were more likely to seek advice or support if the perpetrator was a male partner (66%) compared with a male stranger (42%).

Compared with women whose most recent incident of physical assault was perpetrated by a male stranger, women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by a male partner were more likely to seek advice or support from the following sources:

  • General practitioner (20% compared with *8.7%);
  • Police (17% compared with 10%); and
  • Friend or family member (43% compared with *24%).
     
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  1. More than one source of advice or support may have been sought.
  2. Includes current partner and previous partner.
  3. Includes father, brother, other male relative or in-law, boyfriend or date, ex-boyfriend, friend or housemate, acquaintance or neighbour, employer, manager, supervisor, or co-worker, client, patient, or customer, teacher, tutor, or carer, medical practitioner, priest, minister, rabbi or other spiritual advisor, and other.
     

Compared with women whose most recent incident of physical assault was perpetrated by another known person, women whose most recent incident was perpetrated by a male partner were more likely to seek advice or support from the following sources:

  • General practitioner (20% compared with 11%); and
  • Counsellor or support worker (19% compared with 12%).
     

Time off work

Around one in eight women (12%) took time off work in the 12 months after their most recent incident of physical assault by a male. Women were equally likely to take time off work in the 12 months after the incident regardless of whether the perpetrator was a partner (13%), or other known person (10%).

Anxiety or fear

Three in five women (59%) experienced anxiety or fear in the 12 months after their most recent incident of physical assault by a male. Women were equally likely to experience anxiety or fear in the 12 months after the incident regardless of whether the perpetrator was a partner (61%), another known person (55%), or a stranger (59%).

Endnotes

Endnote 1

Most recent incident data relates to the most recent incident of violence experienced only, and is therefore not necessarily representative of all incidents of violence. Care should be taken in the way most recent incident data is interpreted and reported, and users should refrain from generalising characteristics of the most recent incident experienced to all incidents.

Separations from a violent partner

The PSS asks women about the details of their relationship with their violent current partner and most recently violent previous partner. This includes information about any temporary separations from their violent current partner and most recently violent previous partner during the course of the relationship, and the final separation from their most recently violent previous partner when the relationship ended.

This section examines some of the reasons why women temporarily separate from their violent current partner, why they return after separating, and for those that haven’t separated from their violent current partner, the reasons for staying.

It also examines the subpopulation of women who moved out of home while separated from their violent partner. This includes all the places they stayed during temporary separations from their current partner and most recently violent previous partner. It also includes the place they stayed on the first night after the final separation from their most recently violent previous partner.

Figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. For more information about relative standard error refer to the Personal Safety Survey Technical Note (ABS cat. no. 4906.0).

Women who have temporarily separated from their violent partner

Data source:
Tables 17, 20, 22, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)
Tables 4, 5, 7, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

In Australia, an estimated 275,000 women experienced violence by their current partner since the age of 15. Of these, 30% (81,700 women) temporarily separated from their current partner at some point in the relationship.

All places stayed during temporary separations from current partner

Around half (52% or 42,100) of the women who temporarily separated from their violent current partner moved out of home during one or more of the separations. Of the women who moved out of home, the majority (77%) stayed at a friend or relative’s house.

Women may have stayed at more than one place during any temporary separations.

Reasons for returning after temporary separation

Over half of women who temporarily separated returned to the relationship because they wanted to try and work things out with their partner (58%) and/or because they still loved their partner (57%).

Women may have provided more than one reason for returning.

Half of the women who returned were promised by their partner that the violence would stop (49%) and almost half reported that they had resolved their problems with their partner (47%).

Frequency of violence

Just under half of women who experienced current partner violence reported that the violence occurred once (45%). A further 37% reported that the violence occurred a little of the time whilst 19% reported that the violence occurred some, most, or all of the time.

Of the women who separated from their violent current partner but returned, 39% had experienced violence once during the relationship, 36% experienced violence a little of the time, while *22% experienced violence some, most, or all of the time.

Women who temporarily separated and returned to their violent current partner, frequency of violence during the relationship

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Frequency of violence during the relationship  
All of the time, most of the time, or some of the time
*17.6
21.5
A little of the time
29.7
36.4
Once only
31.7
38.8
Total women who separated and returned
81.7
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component
items and totals.
* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.
 

Frequency of anxiety or fear

Just over half (56%) of the women who separated from their violent current partner but returned reported experiencing anxiety or fear due to the violence, with 32% reporting that they felt anxiety or fear some, most, or all of the time.

Women who temporarily separated and returned to their violent current partner, whether experienced anxiety or fear due to violence

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Whether experienced anxiety or fear due to violence  
Experienced anxiety or fear
46.0
56.3
Once only or a little of the time
23.3
28.5
Some, most, or all of the time
26.5
32.4
Never experienced anxiety or fear
32.1
39.3
Total women who separated and returned to their violent current partner
81.7
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
 

Women who have never separated from their violent current partner

Data source:
Tables 20, 22, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)
Tables 4, 7, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

Main reason for being unable to leave violent current partner

Seven out of every ten women who experienced violence by their current partner since the age of 15 have never temporarily separated from their partner (70% or 193,400 women). Of these, just under half (46% or 89,700 women) wanted to leave but were unable to do so. These women were asked to report their main reason for being unable to leave their violent current partner. The most common main reasons given included:

  • Wanted to try and work things out and/or still loved partner (34%);
  • Lack of money or financial support (*25%); and
  • Resolved problems with partner (16%).
     

Frequency of violence

Women who did not want to leave their violent current partner were more likely to report lower levels of violence throughout the relationship. The majority reported experiencing violence either once (55%) or a little of the time (29%).

Around half of women who wanted to leave their current partner reported that the violence occurred a little of the time (49%); a third reported that the violence occurred once only (34%); while a smaller proportion reported experiencing violence some, most, or all of the time (17%).

Women who wanted to leave their violent current partner, frequency of violence during the relationship

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Frequency of violence during the relationship  
Some, most, or all of the time
*15.1
16.8
A little of the time
43.6
48.6
Once only
30.7
34.2
Total women who wanted to leave their violent current partner
89.7
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.
 

Frequency of anxiety or fear

Women who wanted but were unable to leave their violent current partner were over twice as likely to experience anxiety or fear as women who did not want to leave their violent current partner (64% compared with 24%).

Women who separated from a violent previous partner

Data source:
Tables 22, 24, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)
Tables 5, 6, 7, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

An estimated 1.4 million Australian women have experienced violence from a previous partner since the age of 15.

This includes 1.3 million women who experienced violence while living with their most recently violent previous partner, of which 49% temporarily separated (617,900).

The findings presented below refer to the most recently violent previous partner.

All places stayed during temporary separations from most recently violent previous partner

Of those women who temporarily separated, 64% moved out of home during any of the separations (392,400).

Of those women who moved out of home:

  • 81% stayed at a friend or relative’s house (318,800 women);
  • 29% relocated to a new house or rental property (114,700 women);
  • 13% stayed at a refuge or shelter (51,400 women);
  • 8.3% stayed at a motel, hotel, serviced apartment or caravan park (32,700 women); and
  • 5.3% slept rough (e.g. on the street, in a car, in a tent, squatted in an abandoned building) (20,700 women).
     

Women were able to report multiple places stayed during any temporary separations.

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  1. 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. Refers to the most recently violent previous partner.
  2. Women were able to report multiple places stayed during any temporary separations.
  3. Examples include on the street, in a car, in a tent, squatted in an abandoned building.
     

Place stayed on the first night of the last temporary separation from most recently violent previous partner

On the first night of their last temporary separation from their violent previous partner, of those women who moved out of home:

  • 72% stayed at a friend or relative’s house (281,500 women);
  • 12% relocated to a new house or rental property (46,200 women);
  • 8.4% stayed at a refuge or shelter (32,800 women); and
  • 2.6% stayed a motel, hotel, services apartment or caravan park (*10,300 women).
     

Place stayed on the first night of the last temporary separation from most recently violent previous partner

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Place stayed  
Friend or relative's house
281.5
71.7
Relocated to a new house or rental property
46.2
11.8
Refuge or shelter
32.8
8.4
Slept rough (e.g. on the street, in a car, in a tent, squatted in an abandoned building)
*12.7
*3.2
Motel, hotel, serviced apartment or caravan park
*10.3
2.6
Other
*8.8
*2.2
Total women who temporarily separated from their most recently violent previous partner and moved out of home
392.4
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.
 

Final Separation

Of the 1.3 million women who experienced violence from a previous partner while living together, over half (755,800 women) moved out of home following their final separation from their violent previous partner.

All places stayed following final separation from most recently violent previous partner

Of the 755,800 women who moved out of home following their final separation from their violent previous partner:

  • 67% stayed at a friend or relative’s house (509,700 women);
  • 49% relocated to a new house or rental property (370,200 women);
  • 8.6% stayed at a refuge or shelter (65,100 women);
  • 6.6% stayed at a motel, hotel, serviced apartment or caravan park (49,600 women); and
  • 3.2% slept rough (24,400 women).
     

Women were able to report multiple places stayed following the final separation from their violent previous partner.

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  1. 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. Refers to the most recently violent previous partner.
  2. Women were able to report multiple places stayed after the relationship finally ended.
  3. Examples include on the street, in a car, in a tent, squatted in an abandoned building.
     

Place stayed on the first night after final separation from most recently violent previous partner

On the first night after the final separation from their violent previous partner, of the 755,800 women who moved out of home:

  • 62% stayed at a friend or relative’s house (468,600 women);
  • 26% relocated to a new house or rental property (197,300 women);
  • 5.5% stayed at a refuge or shelter (41,900 women); and
  • 3.0% stayed at a motel, hotel, services apartment or caravan park (22,800 women).
     

Place stayed on the first night after final separation from most recently violent previous partner

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Place stayed  
Friend or relative's house
468.6
62.0
Relocated to a new house or rental property
197.3
26.1
Refuge or shelter
41.9
5.5
Motel, hotel, serviced apartment or caravan park
22.8
3.0
Slept rough (e.g. on the street, in a car, in a tent, squatted in an abandoned building)
*15.4
*2.0
Boarding house or hostel
*3.2
*0.4
Other
8.7
1.2
Total women who temporarily separated from their most recently violent previous partner and moved out of home
755.8
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
* Estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.
 

Frequency of anxiety or fear

Almost two in three women (65%) who experienced previous partner violence reported experiencing anxiety or fear for their personal safety, with one in three experiencing anxiety or fear most or all of the time.

Experience of anxiety or fear for personal safety due to violence from most recently violent previous partner

 Estimated number of women ('000)Proportion (%)
Whether experienced anxiety or fear for personal safety due to violence  
Experienced anxiety or fear
887.9
64.7
All of the time
200.1
14.6
Most of the time
245.8
17.9
Some of the time
255.0
18.6
A little of the time
153.7
11.2
Once only
33.7
2.5
Never experienced anxiety or fear
481.0
35.0
Total women who experienced previous partner violence
1,372.9
100.0
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals
 

Characteristics of partner violence

The PSS asks women about the details of their relationship with their violent current partner and most recently violent previous partner. This includes whether they experienced anxiety or fear as a result of the violence, how frequently they experienced anxiety or fear, whether they made any changes to their usual routine due to the anxiety or fear, and whether they took time off work as a result of the violence.

Figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution. For more information about relative standard error refer to the Personal Safety Survey Technical Note (ABS cat. no. 4906.0).

Women's experience of anxiety or fear in the last 12 months and changes to usual routine

Data source:
Table 20, Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 4906.0)
Tables 8, 9, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

Current partner

Of the 275,000 women who had experienced violence from a current partner since the age of 15, just under half (46% or 126,100) reported experiencing anxiety or fear due to the violence, of which 60,800 experienced anxiety or fear in the last 12 months.

Of these 60,800 women:

  • 44% changed their usual routine in the last 12 months due to experiencing anxiety or fear (26,800 women);
  • 27% reported changes in their sleeping habits (*16,100 women); and
  • *19% reported changes in their social or leisure activities (*11,800 women).
     

Women were able to report more than one change to their usual routine.

Previous partner

Of the 1.4 million women who had experienced violence from a previous partner, 65% (887,900) reported experiencing anxiety or fear due to violence from their most recently violent previous partner, of which 188,700 (21%) experienced anxiety or fear in the last 12 months.

Of these 188,700 women:

  • 70% changed their usual routine in the last 12 months due to experiencing anxiety or fear (131,200 women);
  • 41% reported changes in their social or leisure activities (76,500 women);
  • 38% reported changes in their sleeping habits (70,900 women);
  • 29% reported changes in building and maintaining relationships (53,800 women);
  • 24% reported changes in home security (45,400 women);
  • 23% reported changes in their eating habits (42,400 women);
  • 21% reported changing their contact details (38,800 women);
  • 19% reported changes to their work (35,200 women); and
  • 18% reported moving house within the same state or territory (33,500 women).


Women were able to report more than one change to their usual routine.

Download
  1. 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. Refers to the most recently violent previous partner.
  2.  Respondents may have reported more than one change to usual routine.
     

Time taken off work as a result of partner violence

Data source: Table 10, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, Partner Violence in Australia – January 2020 (ABS cat. no. 4524.0)

Current partner

Of the 173,700 women who were working during the period when the violence from their current partner was occurring, 15% (26,500 women) took time off work as a result of the violence.

Previous partner

Of the 925,100 women who were working during the period when the violence from their most recently violent previous partner was occurring, 29% (270,300 women) took time off work as a result of the violence.

Conclusion

Further analysis of the 2016 Personal Safety Survey dataset found that women living in single parent and financially stressed households were more likely to have experienced partner violence in the last two years than women in other types of households. Other sociodemographic variables associated with higher rates of partner violence included being 25 to 34 years in age; born in Australia or overseas English-speaking countries; unemployed; living in a de facto relationship; having a disability or long-term health condition; poor or fair self-reported health status; and low levels of life satisfaction.

Compared with incidents of physical assault by a stranger and other known persons, incidents of physical assault by a partner were more likely to have been reported to police. Women were also more likely to have been physically injured and sought advice or support from a general practitioner following incidents of physical assault by a male partner compared with incidents of physical assault by other known males or a male stranger.

The majority of women who temporarily separated from their violent current partner and moved out of home during one or more temporary separations stayed at a friend or relative’s house. The most common reasons women provided for returning to their violent current partner were wanting to try and work things out and because they still loved their partner.

The main reasons women gave for being unable to leave their violent current partner were because they wanted to try and work things out and/or still loved their partner, and a lack of money or financial support. Women who wanted but were unable to leave their violent current partner were over twice as likely to experience anxiety or fear due to the violence as women who did not want to leave their violent current partner.

Seven out of ten women who experienced anxiety or fear due to violence by their most recently violent previous partner changed their usual routine in the last 12 months, most commonly social or leisure activities and sleeping habits, whilst three in ten women who were working during the period when the violence was occurring took time off work as a result of the violence.

Data downloads

Tables 1 to 10a

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4524.0