Sexual violence statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has produced an article as part of a series exploring the nature and prevalence of sexual violence in Australia, using data from the 2016 Personal safety survey (the survey) and Recorded crime—Victims collection.

Key points from the first article include that:

  • 23% of women (2.2 million) and 8% of men (718,000) over 18 years of age experienced sexual violence, including sexual assault or child sexual abuse
  • people were more likely to experience sexual violence if they witnessed violence towards a parent by a partner when they were under the age of 15
  • women who experienced child sexual abuse are 3 times more likely than other women to experience sexual assault as adults
  • men who experienced child sexual abuse are 5 times more likely to experience sexual assault as adults.

According to the survey, of the 639,000 women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator in the 10 years prior to survey:

  • only 13% reported to police
  • the most common perpetrator of sexual assault was their intimate partner.

The survey also estimates that 87% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, so the real numbers are likely to be much higher.

As outlined in the Queensland Treasury Crime report—Queensland 2019–20, sexual offences accounted for 17% of all offences against the person reported by the Queensland Police Service, with 97% of perpetrators identified as male.

In 2018, the ABS found that reported victims of sexual assault in Queensland rose for the seventh consecutive year:

  • 85% of all victims of sexual offences were female
  • 72% of victims knew the perpetrator
  • 68% of reported sexual assaults occurred in residential locations, often the victim's home.

Key facts on sexual violence in Queensland found on the Queensland Sexual Assault Network website include:

  • in 2019 there were 4,859 recorded victims of sexual assault, increasing for the eighth year in a row
  • there were over 5 times more females than males recorded as victims of sexual assault
  • almost a quarter or victims (23%) were aged between 15 and 19 years
  • over two-thirds of assaults (70%) occurred at a residential location
  • the majority of victims (73%) knew the offender
  • more than a third (34%) were recorded as family or domestic violence related assaults
  • most assaults (91%) did not involve the use of a weapon
  • it is estimated that 75% of sexual assaults are never reported, so these statistics are likely to be much higher in reality.

Although attitudes towards sexual violence are improving, the National community attitudes to violence against women survey (NCAS) 2017—undertaken every 4 years—shows that our society still has some concerning beliefs:

  • up to 15% of people think it’s justified for a man to force a woman to have sex if she kisses him first
  • 1 in 10 people think that if a woman falls asleep during sex, it’s understandable if a man keeps having sex with her anyway
  • nearly 1 in 3 people believe that if a woman sends a nude image to her partner, she is partially responsible if he shares it without permission
  • 42% of Australians think it’s common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men.

The next NCAS report is due to be produced before the end of 2022.

We strongly believe that sexual violence is a violation of human rights and is unacceptable. We are committed to preventing and responding to all forms of sexual violence in our communities.