Shining a light on shadow pandemic – New report reveals high rate of domestic violence experienced by Australian

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) today released a Statistical Bulletin which reveals the high rate of domestic violence experienced by women during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AIC surveyed 15,000 women aged 18 years and older online in May 2020 about their experience of domestic violence in the three months prior to the survey, when COVID-19 first started impacting Australia.

The prevalence of domestic violence among women during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that 4.6 per cent of all women who responded to the survey-and 8.8 percent of women in a cohabiting relationship-experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabiting partner in the three months prior to the survey.

Many women reported it was the first time their partner had been violent, while others said the violence was getting worse. For 33 percent of these women, this was the first time they had experienced physical or sexual violence within their relationship. More than half (53%) of women who had experienced physical or sexual violence before February 2020 said the violence had become more frequent or severe since the start of the pandemic.

The Statistical Bulletin also shows that 5.8 percent of all women had experienced coercive control from a current or former cohabiting partner, and 11.6 percent at least one type of emotionally abusive, harassing or controlling behaviour. Nearly 20 percent of women who experienced coercive control said that this was the first time they had this behaviour within their relationship. Half of those women with experience of prior non-physical abuse said it had increased in frequency or severity.

Although many women who had experienced violence and abuse had sought assistance from both formal and informal sources of support over the last three months, it was also common for women to report that they did not because they were worried about their safety.

One in three women (36.96%) who experienced physical or sexual violence or coercive control said that, on at least one occasion, they wanted to seek advice or support but could not because of safety reasons. This was even higher (58.1%) among women experiencing more serious or complex forms of violence & abuse. One in three women (31.2%) said they had called the police after the most recent incident of physical or sexual violence, while another 10.9 percent said that someone else had notified the police.

The COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with the onset of violence and abuse experienced by many women, and an increase in the frequency and severity of violence for others. “The results of this survey are alarming. The women we surveyed have experienced very high rates of physical, sexual and emotional abuse during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and many have been unable to seek help,” AIC Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said.

The prevalence of domestic violence among women during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the AIC website www.aic.gov.au

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