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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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RESEARCH REPORT

A life course approach to determining the prevalence and impact of sexual violence in Australia: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

The scale of sexual violence against women and children has likely been underestimated. Until now, research has not extensively examined the prevalence of sexual violence in Australia. This study examined the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH), which has captured sexual violence data – from more than 57,000 women – since 1996.

The research, led by a team from the University of Newcastle, assessed the prevalence of sexual violence over a lifetime and the impacts of experiencing sexual violence on the economic, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of Australian women. ALSWH data was linked with national and state-based health datasets from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The research investigated links between health service use and experiences of sexual violence, which researchers paired with participant data.

The researchers established new prevalence rates for sexual violence against women in three age groups. They found 51 per cent of women in their twenties, 34 per cent of women in their forties and 26 per cent of women aged 68 to 73 have experienced sexual violence. The study also revealed new information about the long-term impacts of sexual violence across a woman’s life. Victims and survivors of sexual violence are up to 45 per cent more likely to have high levels of financial stress and report worse physical and mental health, including chronic conditions and mental health issues, than those who have not experienced sexual violence. Women who experienced childhood sexual violence are also twice as likely as those who did not to have experienced sexual violence, domestic violence and physical violence as an adult.

 

 

Publication details

This work is part of the ANROWS research reports series. ANROWS research reports are in-depth reports on empirical research produced under ANROWS’s research program.


Authors

NATALIE TOWNSEND
Research Program Manager, Centre for Women’s Health Research and Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, University of Newcastle

PROFESSOR DEBORAH LOXTON
Director, Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health and Centre for Women’s Health Research, University of Newcastle

NICHOLAS EGAN
Statistician, Centre for Women’s Health Research and Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, University of Newcastle

ISABELLE BARNES
Senior Research Officer, Centre for Women’s Health Research and Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, University of Newcastle

EMMA BYRNES
Research Officer, Centre for Women’s Health Research and Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, University of Newcastle

PETA FORDER
Senior Statistician, Centre for Women’s Health Research and Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, University of Newcastle


ISBN: 978-1-922645-45-6 (paperback) | 978-1-922645-46-3 (PDF)
95 pp.


Suggested citation

Townsend, N., Loxton, D., Egan, N., Barnes, I., Byrnes, E., & Forder, P. (2022). A life course approach to determining the prevalence and impact of sexual violence in Australia: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (Research report 14/2022). ANROWS.

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