In Australia, the criminal definition of domestic violence includes:
- physical assault
- sexual violence
- emotional abuse
- verbal abuse
- financial abuse
- psychological abuse
- the prohibition of practising religion
Certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities prefer the term family violence as opposed to domestic violence.
This refers to abuse between family members like parents and children in addition to intimate partners.
Domestic violence statistics in Australia
Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue in Australia, involving all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and geographical areas.
Abuse primarily affects women and children, with young Indigenous women being particularly at risk, but men are also victims of domestic violence.
In February 2018, the Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare released an extensive report on domestic violence nationwide and the impact this public safety issue has had on family and personal relationships.
In terms of domestic violence statistics by gender, 2,800 women and 560 men were hospitalised between 2014 and 2015 as a result of being assaulted by their spouse or partner.
According to domestic violence statistics, 1 in 5 (or 1.7 million) women and 1 in 20 men (428,000) men have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since the age of 15.
Women vs Men: Domestic violence by gender
Statistically, women are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence; they are also most likely to know the perpetrator on an intimate level.
Men are more likely to experience violence from strangers and in a public place.
Family and domestic violence occurs repeatedly, with over half (54 percent) of women who experience violence from their partner being subjected to abuse on more than one occasion.
Women are more than twice as likely as men to experience fear and anxiety as a result of violent abuse from a former partner.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, domestic violence rates have remained relatively stable between 2005 and 2016.
Domestic violence deaths: How many women and men die from domestic violence in Australia?
One Australian woman was murdered every week by a current or former partner in the 24-month period between 2012 and 2014.
During the same time frame, one Australian man was killed each month.
In Australia, violence perpetrated by an intimate partner is the cause of more illness, disability and death than any other factor for women aged 25-44.
How are domestic violence rates affecting the Australian population?
The impact of domestic violence on the entire family unit is profound.
For victims of domestic abuse, long term effects include a sense of fear and insecurity, depression, shame, anger, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.
Witnessing or sensing violence in the home can have a severely damaging effect on children.
LifeLine Australia found that the children of domestically abused people experienced a wide range of serious emotional difficulties.
These issues include guilt, aggression, low self-esteem, withdrawing from friends and social situations, problems with concentration and poor performance at school/work, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, self-harm, being bullied or becoming a bully and even physical manifestations such as stomach cramps, anxiety, headaches and bedwetting.
Steps to exit a domestically violent relationship
- Talk to an independent third party who can offer support.
- Make contact with a support organisation and explain your situation.
- Create a safety plan in the event of emergency so you (and your children, where relevant) can escape quickly and without drama.
- Consult with a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts.
- Get free legal advice from Legal Aid or your Community Legal Centre.
- Seek compensation via your relevant State Victims of Crime Service.
- Call the authorities directly on 000 if you are in immediate danger.
Support channels and help
Free counselling for domestic violence victims is available through the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732.
Free legal services are also available through Community Legal Centres, and you can apply for a protection order (AVO) through a solicitor or the police.
You may also be eligible for emergency accommodation or home security.
Centrelink crisis payments can assist with urgent financial concerns if you are in the process of leaving an abusive relationship or home situation.