There are inherent problems in relying on reported data to identify the incidence of sexual assault.
|Previous research has suggested that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes where 'there are numerous "hidden" victims who do not report their victimisation to the police or to health officials, making them invisible in official statistics' (Schwartz, 1997:xi). Putt and Higgins (1997) undertook a review of available 'indicators' of violence against women and found: 'Without a doubt police data and (crime victimisation) survey data continue to underestimate the extent of violence against women' (Putt & Higgins, 1997:xiii). Despite the limitations of police and court statistics they can indicate trends and issues and are an important gauge of the extent to which victim/survivors access the criminal justice system.|
|Prevalence rates for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse vary due to the complex and diverse definitions used. A recent study by Fergusson and Mullen, 1999 has reviewed recent population studies of the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) published in the English language since 1990. Only studies of 100 subjects or more were used. They found that definitions which included non contact sexual abuse like pornography, photography, watching, exposing/flashing, comments have a prevalence rate ranging from 8 per cent to 62 per cent for woman and 3 per cent to 29 per cent for men. When the definition narrows to stringent criteria of penetration or intercourse, including digital, oral, vaginal and anal the prevalence rate goes from 1.3 per cent to 28.7 per cent for women and 1.1 per cent to 14.1 per cent for men. These are disturbing numbers and the estimates lie between these two extremes. However, based on a range of behaviours where children are used for someone's sexual gratification, the prevalence rate is 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men.|
|What the available statistics do tell us is that sexual assault is a gendered crime. Amongst adults it is primarily women who are the victim/survivors and primarily men who are the perpetrators. They also tell us that victim/survivors of sexual assault rarely report the crime to police and even more rarely do they see an offender face any form of justice. They tell us that victim/survivors access formal support services in slightly larger numbers than they make reports to police. The statistics provided below attempt to give a snapshot of all the available data.|
Violence as a gendered issue
CASA stats - 2006
- 97% of offenders were men
- 89% of those accessing CASA House were women
Women's Experience of Violence - ABS Women's Safety Survey (1996)
- 7.1% of Australian women over 18 years experienced an incidence of physical or sexual violence in the previous 12 months
- 23% of women who had been married or in a de facto relationship experienced violence by a partner at some time during the relationship
- 42% of women who experienced violence by a previous partner were pregnant at the time of the violence and 20% experienced violence for the first time during pregnancy
- the group of women most at risk of violence are young women (18 - 24 years old)
- women are most at risk of violence in the home - 55% of sexual violence occurred in the home; 35% of physical violence occurred in the home by a male other than a partner.
Women's responses to violence - ABS Women's Safety Survey (1996)
- most common action taken was to discuss it with friends (58%) and family (53%)
- 19% of women who experienced physical violence contacted the police
- 15% of women who experienced sexual violence contacted the police
- women who experienced violence from a stranger were most likely to report to police
- women who were assaulted by a current partner were least likely to report to the police.