Today the new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his first major spending announcement, promised a $100 million package of measures to protect victims of domestic and family violence.
“We must elevate this issue to our national consciousness, and make it clear that domestic, family or sexual violence is unacceptable in any circumstances,” the PM said in a joint statement with ministers.
The common statistics are increasingly well-known, and an indictment on male attitudes to violence towards women in Australia. One in six Australian women has experienced violence from a current or former partner. One in three Australian women will experience violence in their lifetime. Sixty-three women have been killed in Australia this year.
Just yesterday in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney, a 31-year-old man was charged with killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in the family home.
The number of people who are, or have been, victims of violence in the Australian community is unacceptably high.
A new experimental data set from the Australian Bureau of Statistics based on police data where incidents were recorded by as being domestic or family violence related was released for the first time yesterday. It sheds more light on the vast scale of the problem.
The numbers below show the number of victims of family and domestic violence-related assault from selected states and are, frankly, frightening.
- New South Wales – 28,780 victims;
- South Australia – 5,691 victims;
- Western Australia – 14,603 victims;
- Northern Territory – 4,287 victims; and
- Australian Capital Territory – 615 victims.
It is gut-wrenching.
AND this is without the data from two of Australia’s biggest states, Queensland and Victoria.
AND this is only the incidents where the police have been involved. So much, as we well know, goes unreported. By some estimates, only half of assaults are reported to police.
The details in the police data are distressing. There were 12,561 women who were victims of assault in NSW last year. That’s 34 a day.
Of those, 9651 were assaults by a partner and another 2993 were ex-partners.
These are husbands, boyfriends, and exes assaulting women by the thousand. In one state.
Women and young adults overwhelmingly the victims
All of the data is distressing but what is also surprising is how many young adults are the victims of family and domestic violence. Depending on the state in question, between 39 and 49 per cent of victims of family and domestic violence are aged between 20 and 34 years of age, a period when people are starting their first real jobs, getting married, and starting families.
The police data reaffirms that women are overwhelmingly the victims of family and domestic violence. When it comes to assaults in family and domestic violence, the ABS reports there are:
- Four times as many female victims (4,534) as male victims (1,157) in South Australia;
- Four times as many female victims (3,482) as male victims (807) in the Northern Territory;
- Three times as many female victims (10,648) as male victims (3,860) in Western Australia;
- Three times as many female victims (465) as male victims (145) in Australian Capital Territory; and
- Twice as many female victims (19,488) as male victims (9,261) in New South Wales.
That the ratio of female to male victims is only two to one in NSW might be surprising at first glance. But of those 9,261 male victims of assault, only 3,305 incidents involved a partner or an ex.
Another 4,400 or so victims were victims of assault by “other family members” – read brothers, uncles, and so-called fathers.
When it comes to family and domestic violence related sexual assaults, the ratios of female victims to male victims blows out, to 12:1 in the NT and South Australia and around six times as many female victims as men in other states where data is available.
Remember, this data is far from complete. The ABS describes it as experimental, and different ways that different police forces mark incidents as involving domestic or family violence means no data is available for two of the nation’s biggest states.
It bears repeating that these are only the incidents that get reported to police. Many more women and families are silent victims.
So what is beyond question from this data is not just how many people’s lives are being affected by domestic violence but how frequently it is happening.
It also shows why Australian blokes in particular need to understand that if you hit a woman, you’re not a man, and perhaps the next fist that gets clenched in your home should be that of a police officer banging on the door to take you away and deliver safety to your family.
You can find the ABS report here.