This release presents information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS).
The survey collected detailed information from men and women aged 18 years and over about their experiences of violence since the age of 18, as well as experiences of current and previous partner violence, stalking, physical and sexual abuse and harassment, abuse before the age of 15, and general feelings of safety.‘Approximately half of all women who experienced physical assault by a male perceived alcohol or another substance to be a contributing factor to the most recent incident (49% or 519,700)’ (see Table 8), while ‘[j]ust under two-thirds of men who experienced physical assault by a male perceived alcohol or another substance to be a contributing factor to the most recent incident (61% or 804,000)’ (see Table 9).
See p592 onwards which discusses ‘Economic and emotional abuse offences’, including recognition of fraud, and coercion of victims to claim social security payments in the context of domestic and family violence. Chapter 25 deals with sexual offences, including consent specifically (from p1147). Section [25.114] (p1156) Notes that ‘stakeholders emphasised that the issue of consent in the context of family violence and intimate relationships is complex; and that complexity is magnified where there is a history of violence and coerced ‘consent’. The disjunction between the criminal justice system’s focus on isolated incidents, as opposed to a pattern or history of family violence, was identified as a particular challenge in proving lack of consent.’
Section [25.118] (p1157) observes that stakeholders also suggested that the circumstances vitiating consent should be expanded to include:
See p72- discusses the contrast between autonomy and paternalism, particularly in the context of safety concerns. This section draws on particular examples of how paternalistic approaches can disempower people who are subject to abuse.See chapter 6 ‘Social Security – Relationships’ in relation to consent in financial contexts, discussing difficulties that arise in relation to determining a person is a member of a couple, for the purposes of s4(3) of the Social Security Act (from p151). Concerns are raised from pp152 that ‘economic abuse may obviate consent to the ‘significant pooling of financial resources’’ (p153), and further, that people may be unable to leave a relationship due to violence. ‘The Commonwealth Ombudsman noted anecdotal instances when Centrelink has determined that a customer is a member of a couple, even where it appears the ‘relationship’ may have only continued as a result of duress or financial abuse’ (p153), while concerns were also raised that’ information about family violence—such as police reports—has been used to demonstrate the existence of a couple relationship, rather than finding that one did not exist’ (p154).
This research was conducted to examine the impact of family violence, which had occurred before, during and or after parental relationship breakdown, on post-separation decision making and arrangements as viewed by children and parents both pre and post 2006 changes to family law. The report is based on data collected via an online survey of 931 adults; an online children survey of 65 children; phone-in interviews with 105 parents and phone-back interviews with 33 parents. Some of the key findings for the context of consent include:
At pp 6-7: ‘[t]he other group most affected was the post-2006 group. They reported being coerced by the combined pressure from legal advisors and family dispute resolution practitioners to agree to arrangements that were unsafe or inadequate for their children, including shared parenting, overnight or unsupervised contact, or any contact’.
‘Some of the female respondents reported that they had felt powerless at separation and still felt this way, although this was the smallest group. These respondents felt particularly powerless over sharing care of the children and finances and felt they had been pressured into agreements that were unfair. For example, as one respondent said: ‘the power he held over me during the relationship continued afterwards in regard to parenting arrangements and finances’. She was bluffed into thinking she must agree to the equal time, although this was prior to the 2006 legislation. Another respondent just said: ‘I made decisions based on my fear of him’’ (p50).‘Just under 19% of those who did not access formal services indicated that they made that choice because family violence perpetrated against them made use of the services dangerous or impossible, that is, that victims were bullied into agreements outside the formal system or that the victims rejected formal services because they would provide further avenues for abuse (such as through family dispute resolution)’ (p64). Some ‘women noted that they were threatened with violence and with court action if they did not agree to arrangements for children’ (p79).
This literature review examines the intersection between sexual assault and domestic violence. In relation to consent, the paper highlights that the ability to provide consent for sexual activity may be compromised when it is occurring within the context of the perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV). This is because the perpetration of IPV creates a climate of ongoing fear or control (p 29). Additionally, for sexual violence perpetrated by intimate partners, demonstrating lack of consent is complicated because sexual violence may have been perpetrated in a context where consensual relations may have taken place before and/or after the assault, and in the context of established patterns of sexual behaviours that do not include verbalised consent (p 29).
Understandings of consent in established relationships affect how intimate partner sexual violence is framed both by victims as well as third parties. See pages 47-48 for a discussion of the way social norms affect what is understood as “real rape” (non-consensual sexual activity). Importantly, research has found that intimate partner sexual violence is viewed by the community as both less serious and more justifiable than sexual assault by a stranger or acquaintance (p 47). Indeed, the greater the familiarity between the victim/survivor and perpetrator, the greater likelihood that reports will be considered a lie or misinterpretation (p 47).IPSV victims/survivors themselves often face difficulty in recognising sexual violence as violence, assault or rape (p 26). Similarly, research shows that younger women rarely identify sexually coercive behaviours by boyfriends as sexual assault, and tend to excuse sexually violent behaviour by saying that their own behaviour justified the assault or by pointing to extenuating circumstances (p 48). This again points to the strength of commonly held perceptions of what “counts” as consensual or non-consensual sexual activity.
This Issues Paper identifies the relative silence about male partner sexual violence by women who have experienced it and by service providers. It examines some of these concerns through identifying and discussing five key areas including the law and legal treatment of the issue and the difficulties women face in recognising or naming their experience of sexual violence by a male partner as rape. For example the authors point that in cases where a male partner is charged with rape defence lawyers may attribute the ‘falsity’ of charges to her wanting a favourable property settlement; to secure custody of children, to continue an affair unobstructed; or as revenge (p7).
In relation to women’s reluctance to name partner sexual assault the authors posit a number of reasons based on research including: fears of retaliation, of being rejected or blamed by family members and friends; their fears of reporting to police, of revealing the details of what has remained secret; of having to reflect on the humiliation and degradation they have endured ; fear of the loss of the relationship itself- having shared a life, children, a house, friendships; sense of shame they feel at having failed in their perceived duty as a wife, or in their failure to have made the relationship with their partner work (p15).Note also the discussion of different levels of coercion in relation to male sexual behaviour including: cultural expectations of women to fulfil their “wifely duties” or the pressure to provide sexual services to their husbands regardless of their own desires; a degree of emotional manipulation that comes with women feeling obliged to have sex after their partners have threatened to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, or more simply, to keep the peace; the use or threat of force women described ranged from being held down, being subjected to degrading, humiliating or painful sexual acts, to being raped in the context of other physical violence and battering(p9).
See Chapter 9: ‘Legal system professionals regularly made the point that women felt pressured to agree to outcomes in family law negotiations that they didn’t feel were in their children’s interests. While this was said to be happening frequently, particular concerns were expressed about the nature of the agreements reached in two different situations. The first concerned cases where there had been a history of family violence.Also see ‘15.1.2 Consent orders’ (from p337), noting that ‘The tensions in this area are succinctly summarised in this comment by a legal practitioner about the choice litigants face in deciding whether or not to settle: “Most of them settle by consent and you’ve got a real tension because those that settle by consent feel as if they’ve been bullied into it, get a settlement because they can’t afford it and they want to get it over and done with. Those that run the full trial feel as though they got shafted anyway because they didn’t get heard properly. So either way they feel as though they’ve lost”. In reflecting on their practices concerning consent orders, a common observation among registrars and judicial officers was the limited supervisory role courts have in the context of a system that encourages parties to reach agreement by themselves.’
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 female victim/survivors of adult sexual assault; consultations were conducted with 65 individuals representing services across Australia and fifty-five staff at fourteen sexual assault services across Australia were consulted about their experiences of collaborating with criminal justice and forensic medical personnel. Case studies on p74 provide an insight into sexual coercion/lack of consent in the context of intimate partner violence, including:
Tanya: ‘From the beginning of their relationship her husband pressured her to engage in “sex” when she did not want to and in unwanted sexual acts. She gave in to his demands to keep him happy, but says “it wasn’t dutiful sex; it was more than that. I had no control over my own body. … Tanya did not report the sexual assault to police because she did not identify her experience as sexual assault until her doctor named it’; and Dianne: ‘Dianne met her husband when she was 15 and married when she was 18; she did not realise she could refuse consent and thought that if she pleased him he would love her for herself’.Based on this research the author reports that ‘women who are sexually assaulted by intimate partners may feel more powerless than those sexually assaulted by strangers, while women who are physically and sexually assaulted by their partners may experience pronounced physical and psychological effects that are specific to intimate partner sexual assault’ (p76). The author notes ‘women who are raped in marriage feel violated even if they don’t have the words for their experience. It’s part of a continuum, but how do you name it? Women are being called frigid; there’s so-called persuasion; giving in to keep the peace; or men demanding sex as “reconciliation”, after giving their wives a bashing, so that women submit to avoid retaliation, but it would look like consent in a court of law’ (p105).
In 2017, ANROWS administered the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (2017 NCAS), a survey aiming to help understand attitudes toward violence against women, what influences those attitudes, and if there have been changes to those attitudes over time. Two of the key studied attitudes were “disregarding the need to gain consent for sexual activity”, and “mistrusting women’s reports of violence”.
This report focuses particularly on the attitudes of young people, given higher prevalence and particular impacts of violence on young women (p 5). Overall, across the measured themes, young people’s attitudes were least favourable on the theme “mistrusting women’s reports of violence”. Some of the key findings relating to consent were:
In 2017, ANROWS administered the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (2017 NCAS), a survey aiming to help understand attitudes toward violence against women, what influences those attitudes, and if there have been changes to those attitudes over time. One of the key studied themes is attitudes toward consent for sexual activity.
The 2017 NCAS shows the pervasiveness of concerning attitudes toward consent, such as (pp 11-12):
The 2017 NCAS also investigated whether or not Australians would justify non-consensual sex in different circumstances. The survey found that few Australians believed a man would be justified if he tried to have sex with a woman he was kissing after she had pushed him away. However, the proportion of Australians justifying the behaviour was greater in the scenario in which the woman had taken the man into the bedroom and started kissing him before pushing him away (p 13).The findings show that a concerning number of Australians are unclear about what constitutes consent, and the line between consensual sex and coercion. The report states that “gendered power dynamics, expectations and stereotypes related to sexuality influence how consent is understood and negotiated” (for example, men as aggressive and women as submissive) (p 13).
This report provides substantial additional analysis of the data produced through the Australian Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2012. It highlights important statistics around rates of disclosure. (Note: this article refers to a previous release of the ABS’ Personal Safety Survey, but the analysis remains useful. See Australian Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2016 for most recent release.)
In relation to their most recent incident of sexual assault by a male, one in six women had not told anyone about the sexual assault (p 3). When a woman’s most recent incident of male-perpetrated sexual assault was perpetrated by a male cohabiting partner and she did not contact the police, the three key reasons given were: they did not want to ask for help or felt they could deal with it themselves; fear of the person responsible; and that they did not regard it as a serious offence or crime (p 69). When a woman’s most recent incident of male-perpetrated physical assault was perpetrated by a male cohabiting partner, one in nine had not told anyone about the assault—this is higher than the number of women whose most recent incident of male-perpetrated physical assault was perpetrated by a stranger or an “other known male” (p 111). When a woman’s most recent incident of male-perpetrated physical assault was perpetrated by a male cohabiting partner and she did not contact the police, the two key reasons given were: they did not want to ask for help or felt they could deal with it themselves; fear of the person responsible (p 106). A graph on page 104 shows the low levels of perception of sexual and physical assault as a crime when it is perpetrated by a cohabiting partner.Note: this article refers to a previous release of the ABS’ Personal Safety Survey, but the analysis remains useful. See Australian Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2016 for most recent release.
Draws on International Violence Against Women Survey data (2002-2003- see Mouzos and Makkai below) and examines formal and informal forms of help-seeking among victims of intimate partner violence to identify predictors and illuminate opportunities for improving formal intervention measure.In particular the ‘findings highlight the role of children, partners’ prior counselling experiences and the severity of abuse as key predictors of victims’ decisions to seek formal, in addition to informal, support’ ‘the observed association between abuse severity and victims’ help-seeking behaviours illuminates the opportunity for further reducing harm. Victims who experienced more severe and often life-threatening types of abuse are significantly more likely to approach formal sources including, but not limited to, medical professionals.’ (p5)
This paper reports on the findings of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS), which was conducted across Australia between December 2002 and June 2003. A total of 6,677 women aged between 18 and 69 years participated in the survey, and provided information on their experiences of physical and sexual violence including childhood violence. Notes reasons for non-reporting: (pp97-98)
From IVAWS survey data identifies statistics on lack of reporting:
This article presents the findings from a small qualitative study of routine screening for intimate partner violence (IPV) among health services in New South Wales. The researchers conducted interviews with 20 women six months after they had given positive response to IPV screening questions.The research identifies three elements - direct asking, a trustworthy or trusted person, and choice, constituted key aspects of the screening that supported disclosure’ (p155). Results indicated that disclosure facilitated when women judged it safe on three dimensions; from the abuser, from shame and from losing control (p158).
Two samples of women were surveyed between March 2007 and July 2008; those who reported abuse during screening 6 months previously (122) and those who did not report abuse at that time (241). Twenty-three per cent (27/120) of women who reported abuse on screening were revealing this for the first time to any other person. Of those who screened negative, 14% (34/240) had experienced recent or current abuse, but chose not to disclose this when screened. The main reasons for not telling were: not considering the abuse serious enough, fear of the offender finding out and not feeling comfortable with the health worker.Twenty-nine women provided explanation for their decision not to disclose IPV. The women were given a list of six reasons which they ranked as follows: abuse not considered serious enough (8); fear of offender finding out (4); not comfortable with the health worker (2); embarrassment or shame (1); worry about who else would be told (1). None of the women selected the option ‘Thought it was own fault’ as the main reason for not disclosing. Nine women ticked ‘Other’ and gave diverse explanations such as, ‘Abuse is infrequent and manageable’, ‘Wasn’t a priority to talk about it then, just wanted to get better’, ‘Not with that person anymore.’ (p676)
The aim of this study was to ‘determine which factors were associated with (1) female experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV), (2) female reporting of physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner to the police and (3) females seeking help and support after experiencing IPV’. It found that, ‘[t]he risk of IPV varies greatly across the community. Factors associated with a higher risk of IPV included being younger, Australian-born, having a long-term health condition, lacking social support, experiencing financial stress, having previously been a victim of child abuse and having experienced emotional abuse by an intimate partner’ (p.1)It also found that, ‘[w]here the most recent incident of physical or sexual assault in the last two years was perpetrated by an intimate partner, less than one in three assaults were reported to the police. Intimate partner assaults were less likely to be reported to the police if the perpetrator was still a current partner of the victim at the time of the interview, the assault was sexual (not physical) and if the victim perceived the assault was “not a crime” or “not serious enough”. Having a physical injury after the incident was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting the assault to the police. Where the most recent incident of violence (assaults and threats) was perpetrated by an intimate partner, a counsellor or social worker was consulted after 30% of all incidents’ (p.1).
Notes: ‘ Victims report that sexual forms of family violence, such as rape or other forced sexual acts, are particularly difficult to talk about, even when other violence has been disclosed’ (p102)Explains that in many courts applications for protection orders are made in a public place. Notes: ‘This is not only unsafe, but the application requires victims to list the reasons they need an order, which will require the disclosure of the family violence they have suffered. For some people, this constitutes the disclosure of many years of abuse, some of which may be of a particularly sensitive nature (eg sexual violence). A public place is obviously not the most appropriate venue for such a process’ (p226).
This qualitative study examined the experiences of women seeking help for domestic and family violence who live in regional, rural, and remote areas in Australia. The research drew on interviews with 23 women and interviews / focus groups involving 37 managers and practitioners. Some key findings from the study help to understand experiences of women living in social and geographical isolation. This includes (p 4):
This literature review focuses on the unique experiences and specific barriers faced by women experiencing family or domestic violence in rural and remote areas. It notes that women living in socially and geographically isolated places often cope with domestic and family violence by themselves for long periods of time (p 1). See p5-6 which discusses the structural barriers and cultural factors that prevent rural women from disclosing, including that ‘self-reliance was so valued and upheld in families that to disclose or ask for help about domestic and family violence was perceived as a failure or shameful’ (p 6).
The review notes that effect of social and geographical isolation is particularly important for Indigenous women’s ability to disclose, and that the small and tight-knit nature of Indigenous communities can influence decisions to report (p 10).Pages 10-12 discuss the particular barriers for culturally and linguistically diverse women (such as racism, lack of access to interpreters, and cultural isolation), those identifying as LBTIQ (such as discrimination, homophobic or transphobic attitudes, and a lack of specialist services), and women with disabilities (such as relying on the abuser for transport, and a lack of specialist services).
This paper reviews literature and explores some of the reasons for the high rates of non-disclosure of violence generally and domestic violence specifically in Indigenous communities. Reasons include:
This research reports on interviews with individuals and focus groups undertaken to collect data from 98 IPV survivors and service providers. The research concludes that ‘IPV disclosure remains a “risky business” with perceived negative outcomes outweighing benefits. Results reinforce that social work interventions need to occur at all levels of the human ecology in order to provide effective responses.’This article provides a good overview of barriers to and decision-making around disclosing intimate partner violence. It considers intrapersonal factors (such as mental health and distress, resilience and resistance; p306), family and cultural dilemmas (such as shame, and presence of children), community services (including the inappropriate responses some women experienced, racism, accessibility, numerous issues around police intervention including losing control over the process that comes into play; p307), and policy and program impacts (including immigration and deportation issues, child welfare reporting, and financial vulnerability; p307-8). It concludes that ‘Individuals will carefully assess their situational context and only disclose in varied degrees and amounts, depending on their reading of anticipated risks and benefits. Until the benefits clearly outweigh the risks, disclosure will be withheld’ (p309).