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Gender-based violence remains a ‘national crisis’, according to ABS data


One in five Australian women has been exposed to sexual violence in her lifetime, but new data shows that rates of harm inflicted by intimate partners are declining.

The latest personal safety report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that 22 per cent of women have been exposed to sexual abuse, one in four at the hands of an intimate or family member.

But rates of intimate partner violence against women have dropped from 2.3% in 2016 to 1.5% in 2021-22.

Experts are cautious about the decline, noting that the latest report may not reflect changing forms of violence.

“It’s really important that the survey questions evolve with the perpetrator’s tactics to capture things like technology-facilitated abuse,” Kate Fitz, director of Monash’s Center for the Prevention of Family and Gender-Based Violence, told AAP. -Gibbon.

“We also know that all forms of intimate partner violence go unreported. The survey is based on self-reported victimization data, so it’s something to keep in mind.”

Kristin Diemer of the University of Melbourne, who was part of the ABS expert advisory panel, said the latest results might not tell the whole picture.

“We are not discarding the data that was collected during the (COVID-19) pandemic, but different forms of survey methods were used,” he said.

“With more releases of the data, we should be able to look at particular acts of violence and see if they are different from what has happened in the past.”

For the first time, the ABS analyzed the prevalence of economic violence in cohabiting couple relationships.

About 16 percent of women have experienced controlling behavior around their finances, compared with 7.8 percent of men.

“Economic abuse can be the most burdensome in terms of a woman’s future after she leaves a relationship,” said Professor Diemer.

“She may have contracted debts that she has to pay in 20 or 30 years. She may be bankrupt. She may have trouble getting a loan or a rental lease due to financial abuse.”

Our Watch executive director Patty Kinnersly said economic violence became more prevalent during the pandemic lockdowns.

“We also heard about other ways in which, mostly men, they prevented women from using the car or accessing finances or took away their aids or their medicines,” he said.

Men were more likely to experience physical violence than women (42 percent compared to 31 percent), while a stranger was often the perpetrator against men (30 percent).

When it comes to sexual violence, 22 percent of women experience it compared to 6.1 percent of men.

“Violence continues to be gendered out of proportion,” Kinnersly said.

“We have to remember that these are not just statistics. One woman is too much.”

The latest data shows that gender-based violence is a “national crisis” that needs more funding and attention, said Professor Fitz-Gibbon.

“We have seen the federal government in the last week ask important questions about its commitment of more than $300 billion for submarines.

“Less than one percent of that has committed to addressing violence against women.

“If we have a government that is committed as it has said it is… then we need to see a significant increase in funding commitment.”

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