Latest Personal Safety Survey shows family violence remains a critical issue for Australians

Tuesday 21 March 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the release of the fourth Personal Safety Survey, which shows Australia still has a long way to go to end family violence with one in four women reporting they have experienced violence from an intimate partner or family member.

The Personal Safety Survey is administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics every four years and collects detailed information about Australians’ experiences of violence.  

The survey is a critical measure of the prevalence of family and gender-based violence in Australia and contributes to a bigger picture of what these experiences look like. 

By providing key insights into the prevalence of family violence and sexual assault, the Personal Safety Survey plays a crucial role in shaping policy and service approaches to addressing these significant community issues.  

“It allows us to see where and how progress is being made and how experiences of violence change over time,” said Safe and Equal’s Executive Director for Policy, Communications and Engagement Louise Simms. 

The survey provides a benchmark from which goals and targets can be set – including in Australia’s National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, which relies on this data to help measure indicators of change. 

The most recent survey captured responses from 11,905 adults between March 2021 and May 2022.  This includes experiences of current and previous intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, stalking, and, for the first time, economic abuse.  

Key findings indicate that since the age of 15 years old: 

  • One in three women (3.1 million) has experienced physical violence 
  • One in five women (2.2 million) has experienced sexual violence 
  • One in four women has experienced intimate partner violence 
  • One in five women has experienced stalking 
  • One in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner 
  • One in six women has experienced economic abuse 

The survey also shows that an estimated 2.6 million people aged 18 years and over witnessed violence towards a parent or partner before the age of 15. 

While the data shows a decline in some forms of violence and abuse, concerningly rates of physical and sexual violence have largely remained the same since the 2016 survey. 

“While any decrease in the prevalence of family violence is a good thing, we also need to recognise that this data, while crucial, is only part of the picture,” said Ms Simms. 

The Personal Safety Survey does not currently capture information about gender diversity, nor does it provide reporting of results separated out by any other demographic factor other than gender. This means we are unable to provide a deeper analysis of violence against women according to ethnic identity, country of origin, cultural or linguistic background, migration status, or religion. The survey also does not capture specific data on the experiences of First Nations people, LGBTIQA+ people or people with disability. 

Additionally, the data was captured during the pandemic, which may have had an impact on the results that may not be reflected long-term. 

“It’s important to keep this in mind when contextualising this data, as the impacts from COVID-19 may have influenced temporary changes that may not last in the long-run – only time will tell,” said Ms Simms. 

“We saw that during the pandemic, demand for specialist family violence services skyrocketed – and this has not decreased. Services are also grappling with increases in the complexity and severity of violence victim survivors are experiencing.” 

The data helps us to see that across Australia, we still have a long way to go to eliminating family and gender-based violence.  

An integral part of working towards this is to ensure specialist services are adequately funded so they can continue doing the critical work of supporting victim survivors. 

“Under current funding models, services are finding themselves stretched to their limits,” said Ms Simms. 

“Without sustained and ongoing investment, services are unable to respond to the increasing number of women and children who need support.” 

“Family violence, in all its forms, is entirely preventable. But we’ll never get there without continued investment and prioritisation from governments, including support for prevention initiatives that challenge the very community attitudes that drive this violence in the first place.” 

Media contact:

Louise Simms
0450 081 547

Page last updated Tuesday, March 21 2023


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