The many facets of shame in intimate partner sexual violence

ACSSA Research Summary No. 1 – January 2012

Intimate partner sexual violence in Australia

Australian and overseas data indicate that intimate partner sexual violence is a significant social problem. In Australia, women in cohabitating relationships are more likely to be sexually assaulted by their intimate partner than any other male (Lievore, 2003). For the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey, 6,677 women aged between 18 and 69 were surveyed. Between 5-7% of these women who had a current or former partner had experienced sexual violence from them (Mouzos & Makkai, 2004). The ABS Personal Safety Survey used nationally representative, household surveys to collect information on the participants' experience of physical and sexual violence and found that of Australian females who had been sexually assaulted since the age of 15, 21% had been assaulted by a previous partner and 2% by a current partner - a total of almost a quarter of these assaults (ABS, 2006).

These statistics are comparable to overseas research. A nationally representative study of 1108 US women by researcher Kathleen Basile (2002) found that 10% of all women in the sample had experienced rape by a current partner. US researchers, Tjaden and Thoennes (2006), reported that in a comparison of lifetime rape prevalence by victim-offender relationship, 7.7% of all women were ever raped by a current or former intimate partner and the World Health Organization's (WHO) multi-country study found that between 6.2% (Japan) and 58.5% (Ethiopia Province) of women had at some point experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner (WHO, 2010).

Despite these concerning figures, the issue of intimate partner sexual violence generates little public acknowledgement or discourse though it can have a devastating effect on women who live the experience.