Violence against women almost always committed by family member – study

Elle Hunt
Nearly 6,500 Australian women and girls were treated in hospital as a result of assault in 2013-14. Picture posed by model. Photograph: Getty Images/Stock4B Creative

Violence against women and girls is “usually” perpetrated by a partner or spouse and almost always by a family member, new analysis of cases of assault treated in Australian hospitals has found.

New findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have shown that nearly 6,500 women and girls were admitted to hospital as a result of assault in 2013-14. In cases where the perpetrator was specified, 59% were caused by the victim’s spouse or domestic partner.

Parents and other family members accounted for nearly half of the remaining cases. In about one-quarter of hospitalised assaults, the perpetrator was not recorded.

Women and girls were hospitalised for assault at a rate that was less than half the equivalent for men, with 56 cases per 100,000 females, compared to 121 cases per 100,000 males.

But the patterns of injury seen for females were different to that seen for males, said Prof James Harrison, an injury epidemiologist for the AIHW.

He singled out the “distressingly high proportion of cases” in which the assailant was the spouse or family member of the female victim.

“For males, it’s much more often an acquaintance or somebody they don’t know.”

The rate was highest for women aged between 20 and 34, at a little over 100 cases per 100,000 women.

In the 15 years and older age group, 8% of victims – 217 cases – were pregnant at the time of the assault.

Though many records did not specify where the assault took place, of those that did, 69% took place in the home. Assault was hard to avoid for women, said Harrison.

“If it’s your family member or spouse and it’s happening at home, where’s your refuge? That’s what’s particularly distressing about this, I think.”

In January, the Human Rights Commission called for the commonwealth to improve national data collection on domestic and family violence to identify gaps in services.

Its report found that more than 40% of the 479 homicide events recorded between 2010 and 2012 occurred in a domestic context, with almost 60% of those deaths cases of intimate partner homicide.

But gaps in the data meant it was impossible to show with certainty that domestic violence was the cause of death in all such cases.

The AIHW is due to publish further findings later in 2017, which it bills as the “first comprehensive statistical picture” of domestic, sexual and family violence in Australia.

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