One in six women experience physical partner violence: ABS

Evelyn Lewin

29/01/2020 2:47:08 PM

But an expert believes the number of women who experience the ‘full range’ of abuse and violence is likely to be higher.

Depressed woman
The findings of the 2016 Personal Safety Study found the proportion of women who experienced partner violence has remained relatively stable since previous studies in 2012 and 2005.

An estimated one in six Australian women (1.6 million) aged over 18 have experienced physical violence by a partner since the age of 15.
This was one of the findings of a new analysis, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2016 Personal Safety Study.
Despite this finding, Dr Elizabeth Hindmarsh, a GP and Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Abuse and Violence network, believes the true number of women affected by family abuse and violence in Australia is likely to be even higher.
‘We need to be very clear that this data is about physical violence and there’s lots of other sorts of violence that occurs in families,’ she told newsGP.
‘It’s really important that we know we’re only looking at physical violence. So it says one in six women, but the statistics for the full range of abuse is much higher than that.’
The findings of the 2016 Personal Safety Study also found the proportion of women who experienced partner violence has remained relatively stable since previous studies in 2012 and 2005.
Furthermore, it identified a number of sociodemographic characteristics associated with experiences of partner violence for women, concluding financial stress, unemployment, disability and poor health were all factors.
Other common factors include female victims living in a de facto relationship, being aged between 25 and 34, and those born in Australia or other English-speaking countries.
Despite these findings, Dr Hindmarsh said practitioners need to remain aware that family abuse and violence can happen to anyone.
‘We don’t want to be failing to pick up the ones who don’t fall in those categories,’ she said.
The analysis also found that women were more likely to have been kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or choked when the perpetrator was a male partner, compared with other known males such as a family member or friend.
‘Choking needs to be taken very seriously,’ Dr Hindmarsh said.
‘We now know that women who have been choked are at much higher risk of serious injury or death.’
ABS Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics William Milne said physical injuries were also more common when the perpetrator was a male partner (58%) compared with another known male (45%) and a male stranger (29%).
None of the report’s findings surprised Dr Hindmarsh.
However, she said it is important to pay attention to that the fact only 20% of women sought advice or support from a GP after being assaulted by a male partner, and only 11% saw their GP following assault by another known male.
‘That’s an important statistic to recognise, that it’s coming through our doors [as GPs] but I’m sure we’re not picking that up,’ she said.
‘We really need to be much more actively involved in picking up these presentations.
‘I’m not sure, when GPs are asking about what the circumstance of the injuries were, [they are] being very aware of the high levels of family abuse and violence in our society.’
Dr Hindmarsh hopes practitioners think of family abuse and violence as a potential issue in all consultations.
‘Keeping it at the forefront is important,’ she said. ‘But, also, remembering women won’t necessarily say how the violence happened unless we are very sensitively asking them about that.
‘The message is to ask about family abuse and violence, and to talk about safety.
‘They’re the “first aid” of family violence.’
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