Women in their late teens are more likely than other Australians to be victims of sexual assault, while young men of the same age group are most likely to be perpetrators, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The police-recorded data shows that in 2017-18, 93% of sexual assault cases in people aged over 15 that resulted in hospitalisation were women. The most common sexual assault injuries requiring hospital care were burns and injuries to the trunk and head.
The report, Sexual Assault in Australia, brings together data from a variety of sources and includes new analysis. In 2018, police recorded roughly 18,300 sexual assaults against victims who were aged 15 and over, but that figure only includes those reported to police. The sexual assault rate was higher for those aged 15–19 (455 assaults per 100,000) than any other age group. Overall, the rate of sexual assaults reported to police was seven times higher for women compared with men.
According to estimates from the Personal Safety Survey, the proportion of women aged 18 and over who were sexually assaulted at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey increased from 1% in 2012 to 1.6% in 2016. The proportion of men assaulted was similar for both years (0.4% in 2012 and 0.6% in 2016). In 2018–19, 97% of sexual assault offenders recorded by police were men, the report found. The Personal Safety Survey does not rely on police data, but collects information directly from men and women aged 18 years and above about the nature and extent of violence they have experienced since the age of 15, whether they reported it to police or not.
The CEO of Gender Equity Victoria, Tanja Kovac, said despite the high-profile MeToo movement, high-profile prosecutions of men and increased investment in behavioural change, statistics around violence against women were worsening.
“This problem is so deep and intergenerational that we need permanent significant investment to address it. Violence prevention services across Australia will tell you we don’t get that,” she said.
“If we spent the same amount on ending violence that we spend on ending traffic accidents and workplace deaths, we might start to see changes in behaviour. But there is a gendered bias in the way we address this dangerous behaviour which is leading to deaths of women.”
Gender Equity Victoria was especially worried about how high male violence is in Australia against other men and gender diverse people. “We’re also particularly concerned about male violence towards women – including journalists, sports stars, politicians – online,” she said.
Sexual harassment and technologically-facilitated abuse wasn’t included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of sexual assault, so these attacks were not included in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.
“We argue that they should be,” Kovac said. “Times are changing and we live a lot of our public lives online now. Especially during Covid-19. When women receive rape threats online, or her personal images are published online without her consent, it is sexual assault.”
The data in the report covered a time period before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, findings from an online survey of 15,000 women aged 18 years and over published by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that 2.2% of all women and 4.2% of women in cohabiting relationships experienced sexual violence in the first three months of the pandemic.
The CEO for Our Watch, Patty Kinnersly, said sexual assault is “devastatingly common in Australia”.
“It is also a highly gendered issue,” she said. “As the data consistently shows, what links all forms of violence against women is that they are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.”
She said more needed to be done to address individual men’s attitudes and behaviours as well as attitudes embedded across society.
“We must also challenge some men’s rigid adherence to harmful masculinities – this is the expectation that says men should be strong, stoic, competitive, or aggressive. This rigid adherence often creates attitudes of sexual entitlement and promotes or excuses aggressive behaviour and dominance and control over women,” she said.
“It is the responsibility of all levels of government as well as businesses, sporting organisations, the media and individuals to continue to challenge gender inequality and disrespect towards women.”
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report also examined criminal court cases for sexual assault. Young men aged 15–19 when police proceedings commenced had the highest offender rates (103 per 100,000) of any age group. For finalised defendants with a principal offence of sexual assault found guilty in 2018–19, the most common sentence was custody in a correctional institution (57%). Custodial sentence length ranged from under three months (2.5% of custodial sentences) to 10 or more years (5.8%). Sentences of at least two but less than five years were most common (30%).
Institute spokeswoman Louise York said sexual assault can have a range of ongoing consequences for a victim.
“Victims can experience physical injury, but also many other, ongoing effects, such as fear, anxiety, and changes to their sleep, diet and social routines, as well as their ability to work,” she said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000
Source: The Guardian