Domestic violence half-yearly update: The numbers we need to know

It’s the end of the financial year, a time to celebrate numbers, statistics and summary figures. So let’s have a look at some of the numbers on violence occurring in Australia right now.

Two women or girls killed each week by someone who claimed to love them

Murder investigations and trials can take years, so it’s impossible to get recent figures on confirmed murders. But the latest data available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that 158 people were murdered by a partner or family member in 2015 (excluding Tasmania and ACT). 103 were female, 32 were children.

A total of six people have been killed in what were officially labelled as terrorist incidents in Australia over the last 20 years. Three of the six people killed were the perpetrators.

Sexual abuse of children

There were about 5.7 million children in Australia in 2016.

It’s difficult to know for sure how many children are sexually abused, but best estimates put it at roughly 8 per cent of boys and 20 per cent of girls.

Put all those numbers together, and you could fill the MCG eight times over with children living in Australia right now who have been or will be sexually abused.

Of those instances of abuse, 90 to 95 per cent will be committed by men.

Rape and sexual assault

Roughly 20 million adults live in Australia in 2016.

At minimum, one in every five women and one in every 20 men have been “forced or frightened into unwanted sexual activity” over their lifetime.

Put those numbers into a spreadsheet and shake it. At least 1.8 million Australian women and 470,000 Australian men have been sexually assaulted.

If you emptied out Brisbane you could completely refill the city with Australian survivors of sexual violence.

Less than 15 per cent of those assaults are reported to police, and of the ones that are, about 3 per cent end in conviction.

If we conservatively assume that one person on average is each responsible for three of those assaults, 750,000 rapists live in Australia and have never been held accountable for their crimes.

You’d have to empty Newcastle, Geelong and Darwin to house them all and 98 per cent of them would be men.

Physical violence that hasn’t (yet) ended in murder

The most dangerous place in Australia for a woman to be is at home with her partner on a Saturday night.

The most dangerous place for a man to be is out in public in the company of other men.

In 2015/16, 467,000 men and 432,000 women experienced physical assault.

Men are seven times more likely to be assaulted by another man than by a woman. They are also five times as likely to be assaulted by a male stranger than by an intimate partner.

Women are almost twice as likely to be assaulted by an intimate partner or family member than by a stranger.

You couldn’t fit all the women who’ve been physically assaulted by their husband or boyfriend this year alone into Docklands Stadium, Adelaide Park or Lang Park. You could get them all into Stadium Australia, and you’d even have a few seats to spare, but you’d fill all those seats, and Perth Oval as well, if you added all the women who have been assaulted by a family member.

Funding

Working out how much funding is given to prevention and support services for domestic violence is tricky. Federal government funding is spread out across a couple of departments and several programs.

The Attorney General’s department is responsible for funding for legal services, the Department of Social Services manages funding for the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children ($ 100 million over four years) and the Women’s Safety Package ($ 100 million over two years).

The total travel and office expenses claimed by parliamentarians for just one year (2016) was $ 99.4 million.

State governments, most notably Victoria with $ 1.9 billion over four years, also stump up quite a bit of money, but again, it’s managed by different departments and programs. And again, is spread across services that are vital for victims of domestic violence, such as legal advice and housing, but aren’t specifically for those people.

In 2014 the Productivity Commission recommended essential funding for community legal services was required at $ 200 million per year.

After caving to intense pressure from every side, George Brandis reversed the federal government’s predicted funding cuts and confirmed $ 55 million over three years for community legal services.

Family Court

The Turnbull government proudly announced it is making a small step towards the possibility of considering reforming the Family Court. Next year. Or maybe the year after. We’ll see what the next report says.

As Jess Hill, who has done outstanding work on uncovering the horrors of Family Court rulings, wrote about the Family Court last year:

“It’s all too common to hear domestic violence being dismissed as ‘ancient history’, to see the impact of that violence on children minimised or ignored, and for custody to be stripped from one parent for attempting to protect their children from their abusive other parent.”

The government is also drafting legislation to prevent perpetrators of violence being able to cross examine their victims in court.

What about men?

To forestall the inevitable whataboutery dance performed by men of the internet in response to any article about violence against women and children, let’s have a look at what’s happening to men.

Men’s violence against themselves and each other is far greater than the violence they commit against women and children.

Suicide rates among Australian men are appallingly high, and this should forever be the line where ideology stops. Suicide is always a tragedy and no one should ever play politics with it.

Just over eight people die by suicide every day in Australia, and six of those eight are men. It takes nearly three times as many lives as the road toll and 15 times as many lives as work-related deaths.

The suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is twice the rate of non-indigenous Australians.

The reasons for suicide are always complex and cannot be attributed to any one specific cause. Loneliness, depression, substance abuse, isolation, unemployment, history of abuse and family breakdown are all factors, but rarely a single directly attributable cause.

They were 35,745 men incarcerated in 2016, 12 times more than the number of women in prison. Of those, 46 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women were imprisoned for violent offences.

And so…

Despite all these numbers, Australia is still a relatively safe place to live. And the achingly slow progress on addressing gender-based violence has received a shot of adrenaline from the Royal Commission in Victoria. It will be interesting to watch what happens there over the next few years. Is money, education, focus, understanding and priority enough to reduce the rate of men’s violence against women, children and themselves?

Let’s hope so.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. 

Lifeline: 13 11 14 

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