The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released an update to its monitoring of the rates of violent crime occurring within Australia. The data covers the full calendar year of 2013. Given the minimal media coverage this has received, it might be time to try and present this data in a new, much more impactful way, than the plain tables the ABS provided in its all to clinical manner.

I have experimented with using a data visualisation package called Tableau to provide a breakdown of some of the starker statistics collected by the ABS. Most of these aren’t surprising, or at least, they shouldn’t be.

The release of the statistics closely preceded a “tri-partisan” agreement for the Australian Senate to instigate an enquiry into domestic violence. The enquiry was an initiative of the Australian Greens, and I had to link to them above for the reference as I was unable to find any articles reporting on the announcement, occurring in one of the weirdest weeks in Australian politics for many years, being reported by the press.

Seeing politicians put aside partisan battle lines at least once this week provides a nice reminder that politics can have some degree of sanity. Again, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the issue of domestic violence has the power to facilitate this, as partly explained by a similarly timed, New Matilda piece where Rachel Clayton highlights some of the difficulties that are faced in trying to tackle the prevalence of domestic violence and wider violence against women. Everyone needs to play a part.

Echoed in the statistics released by the ABS are some insights into the nature of violence being committed and why the popular perception of the threats that exist (at least those to which mainstream news outlets seem to pay the most attention to) creates an almost self-enforcing environment in which they can be perpetuated. This includes:

  • The vast majority of victims of sexual assault being women (84%). This is a greater than six-to-one ratio.
  • Almost three-quarters of sexual assaults (74%) were committed by someone known to the victim. Friends, family, partners.*
  • Young people, under the age of 19, are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted by someone in their immediate family.
  • No action is taken against perpetuators in more than half (53%) of the cases of sexual assault within the first 30-days after it being committed. This compares to less than 14% for robbery, 15% for unlawful entry, 20% for vehicle theft and 2% for murder.
  • More than 70% of sexual assaults that occur in a known location, occur in a home.

*It is understood that violence committed by partners and family members is significantly underreported, partly because of what drives the statistics above.

This is Australia in 2013.

When we have statistics like this being so prevalent, it goes towards explaining why it can be so difficult to instigate change, and that the challenge is so huge. These are crimes that are occurring overwhelmingly in the places that we consider safe, by people that we should be able to trust.

There is an under appreciation of these statistics in the general community. I think this is particularly true of men. Its also disturbing to see some people who are actively trying to deny the statistics.

I hope I have helped to display the disparateness that is becomes evident in the data.

To quickly anticipate one common response, yes, men do experience more violence in general. 49% of adult men have been on the receiving end of a violent attack. Men are also three-and-a-half times more likely to have been attacked by another man than a woman. The ABS again provides the statistical basis for this.

According to the ABS, in 2013, the sexual assault victimisation rate increased to its highest rate in four years.

This is a conversation we keep needing to have.

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Michael Mazengarb
About The Author

Michael Mazengarb

Michael Mazengarb is a post-graduate student Australian National University, completing a Master of Climate Change. An environmental mercenary, he has worked numerous roles pursuing environmental conservation and climate change action. Michael edits Omnishambles, and generally writes with a progressive perspective.

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