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Facts and figures

Violence against women is now recognised to be a serious and widespread problem in Australia, with enormous individual and community impacts and social costs. 

However this significant social problem is also ultimately preventable.

But to prevent violence against women we first need to understand it. 

Get informed with these key statistics, facts and definitions.

Key facts

The following basic statistics help demonstrate the prevalence and severity of violence against women:
  • On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.1  ​
  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.
  • One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.2
  • One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.2
  • One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.3
  • Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.4 
  • Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives.5 
  • Of those women who experience violence, more than half  have children in their care.
  • Violence against women is not limited to the home or intimate relationships. Every year in Australia, over 300,000 women experience violence – often sexual violence – from someone other than a partner.
  • Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year.8 
  • Young women (18 – 24 years) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.
  • There is growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence.10  
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience both far higher rates and more severe forms of violence compared to other women.11  

What do we mean by violence against women?

Put simply, and using an internationally recognised definition, violence against women is any act of gender based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life.12  

As this definition makes clear, violence against women is not only or always physical. It includes psychological, economic, emotional and sexual violence and abuse, and a wide range of controlling, coercive and intimidating behaviours.

In Australia, violence against women is called many different things, including domestic violence, family violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Here are some definitions of different kinds of violence, which demonstrate the different forms that violence against women can take:

Domestic violence

Domestic violence – refers to acts of violence that occur in domestic settings between two people who are, or were, in an intimate relationship. It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

Emotional/psychological violence

Emotional/psychological violence – can include a range of controlling behaviours such as control of finances, isolation from family and friends, continual humiliation, threats against children or being threatened with injury or death.

Family violence

Family violence – is a broader term than domestic violence, as it refers not only to violence between intimate partners but also to violence between family members. This includes, for example, elder abuse and adolescent violence against parents. Family violence includes violent or threatening behaviour, or any other form of behaviour that coerces or controls a family member or causes that family member to be fearful. In Indigenous communities, family violence is often the preferred term as it encapsulates the broader issue of violence within extended families, kinship networks and community relationships, as well as intergenerational issues.

Gender based violence

Gender based violence – violence that is specifically ‘directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’.

Intimate partner violence

Intimate partner violence – any behaviour by a man or a woman within an intimate relationship (including current or past marriages, domestic partnerships, familial relations, or people who share accommodation) that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm to those in the relationship. This is the most common form of violence against women.


Non-partner sexual assault

Non-partner sexual assault – sexual violence perpetrated by people such as strangers, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, peers, teachers, neighbours and family members.

These definitions are taken from Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. You can find the full glossary of terms on page 61-62.

The impact of violence against women

Violence against women and their children takes a profound and long-term toll on women and children’s health and wellbeing, on families and communities, and on society as a whole.
Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.13   

Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women,14 a common factor in child protection notifications,15 and results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country.16  

The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year, with projections suggesting that if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a thirty year period from 2014-15 to 2044-45.17  

Children and young people are also affected by violence against women. Exposure to violence against their mothers or other caregivers causes profound harm to children, with potential impacts on attitudes to relationships and violence, as well as behavioural, cognitive and emotional functioning, social development, and – through a process of ‘negative chain effects’ – education and later employment prospects.18 

Above all, violence against women is a fundamental violation of human rights, and one that Australia has an obligation to prevent under international law.19

What about violence against men?

All violence is wrong, regardless of the sex of the victim or perpetrator. But there are distinct gendered patterns in the perpetration and impact of violence. 

For example, both women and men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of men, with around 95% of all victims of violence in Australia reporting a male perpetrator.20 

While men are more likely to experience violence by other men in public places, women are more likely to experience violence from men they know, often in the home.21 

The overwhelming majority of acts of domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by men against women, and this violence is likely to have more severe impacts on female than male victims.22 

Recognising the gendered patterns of violence doesn’t negate the experiences of male victims. But it does point to the need for an approach that looks honestly at what the research is telling us, and addresses the gendered dynamics of violence – this is what Our Watch seeks to do.

Our specific mandate is to prevent violence against women and their children, but promoting gender equality and respectful and non-violent relationships benefits the whole community, including men.

Violence against women key statistics

The National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS) 2013 key findings

NCAS, conducted by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), is a unique Australia-wide study designed to track how the population view issues related to violence against women. 

Click to view NCAS 2013 – DOCX, 71KB 


1. Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), 2015. 
2. Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Sydney; and Woodlock, D., Healey, L., Howe, K., McGuire, M., Geddes, V. and Granek, S. (2014) Voices against violence paper one: Summary report and recommendations, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2012.
4. In 2012, 17% of all women and 5% of men had experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Personal Safety, Australia 2012, Cat. No. 4906.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Canberra
5. Mouzos, J. (1999) Femicide: An overview of major findings, No. 124, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, pp. 1-6; Statistics Canada (2003) Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2003, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Ministry of Justice, Canada.
6. National Crime Prevention (2001) Young people and domestic violence: National research on young people’s attitudes and experiences of domestic violence, Crime Prevention Branch, Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra; and Cox (2015), see note 2.
7. ABS (2013), see note 4. Survey extrapolated to population figures on the basis of 3.8% of all women surveyed reporting having experienced physical or sexual violence from a non-partner in the past 12 months (and approximately 9 million women over the age of 18 in Australia).
8. Johnson, M. and Bennett, E. (2015) Everyday sexism: Australian women’s experiences of street harassment, The Australia Institute, Canberra.
9. ABS (2013) see note 4. In the 2012 Personal Safety Survey, 13% of women in this age group reported having experienced violence by a man in the last 12 months. This was the highest proportion of any age group. 
10. Cox, P. (2015), see note 2; and Woodlock, D., Healey, L., Howe, K., McGuire, M., Geddes, V. and Granek, S. (2014), see note 2.
11. For example, Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults than non-Indigenous people. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2014).
12. United Nations (1993) Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
13. Based on Victorian figures from VicHealth (2004) The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne. A comparable national study is pending. 
14. 55% of women with children presenting to specialist homelessness services nominated escaping violence as their main reason for seeking help. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Specialist homeless services data collection 2011-12, Cat. No. HOU 267, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
15. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015) Child Protection Australia 2013-14, Child Welfare Series No. 61, Cat. No. CWS 52, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra. Children exposed to family violence are classified as experiencing ‘emotional abuse’, which, while a broader category, is the most commonly substantiated type of harm (39%) in child protection notifications across Australia.
16. Police across Australia dealt with 239,846 domestic violence incidents in 2015, an estimated 657 domestic violence matters on average every day of the year (or one every two minutes) – calculated for police data sourced across all states and territories, collated at ABC News.
17. Price Waterhouse Coopers (2015) ‘A high price to pay: the economic case for preventing violence against women’, report prepared for Our Watch and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth).
18. Frederick, J. and Goddard, C. (2007) Exploring the relationship between poverty, childhood adversity and child abuse from the perspective of adulthood, Child Abuse Review, 16, pp. 323–341; and Humphreys, C. and Houghton, C. (2008) The research evidence on children and young people experiencing domestic abuse, in Humphreys, C., Houghton, C. and Ellis, J., Literature review: Better outcomes for children and young people affected by domestic abuse – Directions for good practice, Scottish Government, Edinburgh. Several jurisdictions now recognise this harm as a form of family violence in and of itself.
19. The elimination of violence against women is also a specific target of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to which Australia is committed: United Nations (2015) Sustainable Development Goals.
20. ABS (2013), see note 4.
21. Ibid.
22. Around 95% of all victims of violence (both male and female) reported experiencing acts of violence - physical or sexual assault, or threats – from a male perpetrator. ABS, (2013), see note 4. Survey extrapolated to population figures on the basis of 3.8% of all women surveyed reporting having experienced physical or sexual violence from a non-partner in the past 12 months (and approximately 9 million women over the age of 18 in Australia).