Almost one in four Australian women, more than 2.2 million, have experienced sexual violence either through an assault or being sexually abused as a child. More than 10% of  women experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known perpetrator who was not a family member, the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) reports. And for the 17% of women who have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, an intimate partner was the most common perpetrator. The new ABS study, Sexual Violence – Victimisation, examines data from personal surveys and recorded crime statistics to reveal a disturbing, and escalating, picture of sexual violence across Australia. It finds 23% of women, and 8% of men, had experienced sexual violence in the form of assault or abuse during their lifetime. The vast majority of perpetrators against men were male.

Sixty per cent of women and 51% of men who had experienced a sexual assault had been assaulted multiple times, the study finds. And it shows that the prevalence of sexual assaults against women had increased between 2012 and 2016, the two most recent data points, while for men it had remained constant. “Both women and men were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger,” if finds. “For women the most common perpetrator was an intimate partner.” “11% of women and 4.6% of men experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known person who was not a family member,” it says. Despite the prevalence, the vast majority of incidents of sexual assault are not reported to police. Of the 144,797 victims of sexual assault recorded by police between 2014 and 2019, 83% were female and 63% were under the age of 18.

Younger women, those experiencing financial hardship and women living with disability experienced higher prevalence of sexual assault. And those of both gender who had been sexually abused before the age of 15 were more likely to experience sexual assault as adults, the study found. “We know that sexual violence is incredibly widespread, and growing, and the reporting and conviction rate is low,” said Professor Nicole Moulding, director of the Safe Relationships and Communities Research Group at University of South Australia. “There is a lot of stigma and taboo around the reporting of this in society, and a lot of issues around achieving justice through the criminal justice system because of sexist lenses that are still applied, issues such as victim blaming and so on,” Professor Moulding said.

Professor Moulding said the rise in recent decades of pornography that is violent and degrading towards women is one factor in the continuing high rates of sexual violence in Australia. When adult women were the victim of a sexual assault by a male perpetrator, the report said, a recurring factor was alcohol, with 50 per cent believing alcohol or another substance contributed. And worryingly, only 26 per cent of women considered the sexual assault incident was a crime at the time it was being committed, with only 13 per cent reporting their most recent incident of assault by a male perpetrator to police. Almost half (48 per cent) of the women who were sexually abused as children experienced that abuse for the first time between 5 and 9 years of age. For men, almost half were between 10 and 14.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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