Facts & Figures

Understanding the types of statistics available and what they are measuring is extremely important.

Statistics carry significant power and persuasion. At one level they appear to provide an instant and accessible way of grasping the nature and extent of social issues. Yet any statistic has a complex methodological history, which affects how it can, and should, be used. This is important to remember when attempting to determine the extent of sexual assault. A range of factors such as barriers to disclosure, the low rate of reporting to police, varying definitions of sexual assault and abuse, and the complexity of recording and counting such information make this a particularly hidden type of violence.

Sexual assault statistics are based on two main types of data*:

The figures presented here are intended to provide the most up-to-date estimates of the levels of both reported and unreported sexual assaults that occur in Australia.

Key findings in relation to gender of victims and offenders are also provided.

The following titles will lead you to the statistics that you need.

* This information is an extract from ACSSA Resource Sheet The nature and extent of sexual assault and abuse in Australia. It includes further information on data types relating to sexual assault statistics.

1. Victimisation survey data

2. Administrative data

(OCSAR) The South Australian Office of Crime Statistics & Research

The OCSAR, housed within the Attorney General's Department, is responsible for research into (and monitoring of) crime trends and the criminal justice system within South Australia. OCSAR publish the annual online application Crime Mapper which shows the geographic distribution of recorded crime across South Australia.

See publications and statistics on the OCSAR website

Crime Victimisation Survey (CVS)

Data on Crime Victimisation were collected as part of the 2011–12 Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS), involving 26,382 fully responding households, representing a response rate of 80%.  The ABS conducted National Crime and Safety Surveys in 1975, 1983, 1993, 1998, 2002 and 2005. In 2006–07, a review of these crime surveys found the need for more timely and regular crime victimisation headline indicators (on an annual basis), and the need for flexibility to cater for new and emerging areas of crime. 

The survey estimates the extent of victimisation of family, domestic and/or sexual violence experienced for both personal and household crimes, regardless of whether they were reported to police.

In 2010–11, for the first time victims of physical assault and face-to-face threatened assault aged 15 and over who were personally interviewed were asked whether they believed alcohol or any other substance contributed to their most recent incident of assault.

Crime Victimisation Survey

Personal Safety Survey 2012

On 11 December 2013, the ABS re-issued the results of the nationally representative Personal Safety Survey presenting information about women's and men's experiences of violence. The ABS define sexual assault as "an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion". Sexual violence is defined as including sexual assault and sexual threat.

Changes in statistics since 2005

4906.0 Personal Safety, Australia, 2012

The following infographics highlight some findings from the recent Australian Bureau of Statistics release of the 2012 Personal Safety Survey.  For more information please see the full report.

17% of women aged 18 years and over have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. 83% of women were either not sexually assaulted, or it is not known if they were sexually assaulted. 4% of men aged 18 years and over have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. 96% of men were either not sexually assaulted, or it is not known if they were sexually assaulted.

87.7% of women sexual assaulted knew their perpetrator. 12.3% of women were sexually assaulted by a stranger. 75% of men sexual assaulted knew their perpetrator. 25% of men were sexually assaulted by a stranger.

National Crime and Safety Surveys 2005
(includes reported and unreported incidents)

In 2005, there were an estimated 44,100 persons aged 18 years and over who were victims of at least one sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey; a victimisation prevalence rate of 0.3%. Approximately 72,000 incidents of sexual assault were experienced by these victims. For information specific to the quality and extent of sexual assault data collected in 2005, see paragraph 23 of the Explanatory Notes.

ABS report: 4509.0 - Crime and Safety, Australia, Apr 2005

International Violence Against Women Survey: the Australian Component (2004)

A total of 6,677 women aged between 18 and 69 years participated in the telephone survey between December 2002 and June 2003, and provided information about their experiences of both physical and sexual violence. Women who participated were asked to recount their experiences of violence (including threats of violence) by current and former male partners, other males known to them including family members, acquaintances and friends, and their experiences of violence by strangers. They were also asked to recall instances of childhood violence and abuse.

As the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS) was a telephone survey, participation was limited to women living in private residences who had telephones. This inevitably results in the experiences of particular groups of women being significantly under-represented or excluded entirely; in particular, women who are homeless, in prison, women living in rural or remote communities, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and women who are not English-speaking. However, the survey did capture the experiences of 92 Indigenous women and 1122 women from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Experiences across women's lifetimes (IVAWS)

Women's experiences in the 12 months prior to the survey (IVAWS)

Disclosure and reporting to police (IVAWS)

Women's Safety Survey 1996
(includes reported and unreported incidents)

The Women's Safety Survey was conducted between February and April 1996 and published in 1996. The survey relied on face-to-face interviews with a random sample of approximately 6,300 women in Australia, aged 18 years and over, who were living in a private dwelling in urban and rural Australia (non-English speaking women were interviewed over the phone with the assistance of an interpreter). The survey investigated women's experiences of physical and sexual violence in the last 12 months, and since the age of 15. It was estimated that, of women living in Australia aged 18 and over:

Women's Safety Survey

Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia 2012 (Police statistics)

This publication presents national crime statistics relating to victims of a selected range of offences that have been recorded by police. These statistics provide indicators of the level and nature of recorded crime victimisation in Australia and a basis for measuring change over time. As not all crimes are reported to or recorded by police, other data sources can assist in providing a more comprehensive view of crime levels in society.

Changes in this issue: The National Crime Statistics Unit (NCSU) has developed in collaboration with police agencies a National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). This standard comprises a set of business rules and requirements to guide the recording and counting of criminal incidents by police.

Estimated Resident Population data used to calculate rates and indexes in this issue have changed. See Explanatory Notes paragraphs 115-117.

ABS report: 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2012

Criminal Courts

This publication by the Australian Bureau of Statistics presents information pertaining to offences, case outcomes and sentences associated with defendants. The information on the characteristics of the defendants are received from State and Territory criminal courts.

ABS report: 4513.0 - Criminal Courts

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