News and Commentary

Domestic Violence

Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Australia

Sharing is caring!

Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Australia

Domestic Abuse and Violence International Alliance

February 7, 2023

Seven population-based or large-scale surveys have examined the sex-specific prevalence of physical domestic violence in Australia. Studies with the strongest methodologies surveyed a large, random sample of the population, and asked about the occurrence of specific abusive behaviors, e.g., slap, shove, hit, etc., consistent with the Conflict Tactics Scale.[1]

The surveys were conducted among adolescents (Gibbon et al), university students (Straus), newlyweds (Halford et al), and the general adult population (Headey et al, Grande et al, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Ahmadabadi et al).

The following surveys found higher rates of male victimization or female perpetration:

  • Headey et al
  • Straus
  • Halford et al
  • Ahmadabadi et al (among persons currently in a relationship)
  • Gibbon et al

The following surveys found higher rates of female victimization or male perpetration:

  • Grande et al
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Ahmadabadi et al (among persons currently not in a relationship)

We conclude that overall, men and women in Australia experience domestic violence at similar rates. Summaries of each survey are shown below, in chronological order of year of publication:

  1. Headey B, Scott D, & de Vaus D (1999). Domestic violence in Australia: Are women and men equally violent? Data from the International Social Science Survey/Australia 1996/1997 was examined. A sample of 1,643 subjects (804 men, 839 women) responded to questions about their experiences with domestic violence in the past 12 months, as assessed by responses to three questions about a slap, shake, or scratch; hit with fist or threw something; or kicked. Results reveal that 5.7 % of men and 3.7 % of women reported being victims of domestic assaults.[2]
  2. Grande ED, Hickling J, Taylor, & Woollacott T (2003). Domestic violence in South Australia: A population survey of males and females. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27(5), 543–550. A representative random sample of South Australian adults responded to items related intimate partner violence. Results reveal that 2.9 % of 2,596 men and 3.4 % of 2,884 women reported experiencing physical violence perpetrated by their partners.[3]
  3. Straus M (2008). Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations. Children and Youth Services Review 30 (252-275). As part of an international study of dating violence among students in 32 countries, Straus surveyed university students in Adelaide. Among the respondents, 20.2% admitted to pushing, grabbing, slapping, throwing something, twisting the arm or hair, punching, kicking, choking, slamming against a wall, beating up, burning, or using a knife or gun against their dating partner within the past year. These incidents were of the following type (Table 2):
  • Male-only: 14.0%
  • Female-only: 21.0%
  • Both violent: 64.9%
  1. Halford W, Farrugia, C, Lizzio A, & Wilson K (2010). Relationship aggression, violence and self-regulation in Australian newlywed couples. Australian Journal of Psychology, 62(2), 82–92. A sample of 379 newlywed couples in Australia responded to a short version of the CTS. Results reveal that 22% of couples experienced a least one act of physical violence in the past year. Female perpetration of violence was more common that male perpetration. Authors report that in violence couples the more common pattern was for women to be violent (59%) followed by violence by both partners (34%) and least common was violence by men only (7%). [4]
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey (2017). A large, nationally representative survey inquired about persons’ experience of “violence.” The two components of physical violence are defined as:
    1. Physical assault is any incident that involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person.
    2. Physical threat is any attempt to inflict physical harm or a threat or suggestions of intent to inflict physical harm, which was made face-to-face and which the person believed was able and likely to be carried out. Excludes incidents of violence in which the threat was actually carried out.

Of all incidents committed by an intimate partner in the past year, 35% of victims were male and 65% female.[5]

  1. Zohre Ahmadabadi, Jackob M. Najman, and Peter d’Abbs (2017). Gender Differences in Intimate Partner Violence in Current and Prior Relationships. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 36 (1-2). The sample consisted of 2,060 young adults (mean age = 30 years) who had participated in the 30-year follow-up of the Mater Hospital and University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy. Percentages of persons who had experienced physical abuse in the previous 12 months:[6]
    1. Currently in a relationship: 12.0% of males and 5.9% of females
    2. Not currently in a relationship: 22.6% of males and 27.2% of females
  1. Gibbon KF, Meyer S, Boxall H, Maher J, Roberts S (2022). Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of prevalence, history of childhood victimisation and impacts. ANROWS conducted a national online survey of over 5,000 adolescents ages 16-20 regarding their abusive actions directed to family members. The survey found that 23% of females and 14% of males reported they had ever perpetrated some form of abuse against a family member (Table 2):
  • Physical violence — Males: 7%; Females: 11%
  • Verbal abuse — Males: 9%; Females: 17%
  • Emotional/psychological abuse – Males: 2%; Females: 6%

The age of onset among female adolescents tended to be earlier than male adolescents (Figure 1.5). The violence was directed to siblings (68%), mothers (51%), and fathers (37%).[7]