A new study shows that nearly half of all women are sexually assaulted or sexually assaulted by a current or former intimate partner.
The results are the first to reveal how frequently a woman is assaulted or assaulted by her partner, as well as how often the victim reports the crime to the police.
A report released on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice (AICJ) suggests that nearly 50 per cent of sexual assaults in Australia are committed by a partner.
“This is a very important finding, because it highlights that there is a substantial risk of sexual assault being overlooked by the criminal system,” lead author and senior researcher, Professor Amy Wilson, told the ABC.
“And we need to be able to recognise the signs of a sexual assault to help people to recognise it and intervene when it occurs.”
The researchers interviewed almost 6,000 people aged 18 to 69 and interviewed more than 9,000 women aged 15 to 44 who had been sexually assaulted in the past year.
Their study is based on a sample of 2,838 responses, representing more than 16,000 incidents.
The researchers found that women were more likely to be sexually assaulted at work, when alone, and when in public places.
More than half of the women surveyed were assaulted while in a car, a restaurant, or an establishment.
In a similar proportion of the cases, the assault was committed by an acquaintance or someone close to the victim.
Professor Wilson told the Guardian that the study was “very significant” and highlighted “the huge gap in the perception of sexual violence that exists in the legal system”.
In the report, she noted that the problem of sexual victimisation is “widespread” and that “most sexual assaults don’t occur to anyone but the victim”.
The findings were “very concerning” and “deeply concerning”, she said.
The Australian Institute for Criminological and Criminal Psychology (Aicj) has also released a study which finds the rate of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace is “significantly higher” than that in the community.
It found that in 2012, there were more than 50 sexual harassment complaints filed by a workplace compared to just 10 complaints in the general community.
“Most sexual harassment claims are made by women or women in leadership positions, while many are made against men or men in leadership roles,” the Aicj report found.
“In Australia, the number of reported cases of sexual or abusive behaviour by men is twice as high as the number against women.”
The research also found that more than half the sexual assaults were committed by men.
“The majority of victims are men and their sexual assaults are more likely when they are with a male relative,” Professor Wilson said.
“When women are assaulted by men, they report that they feel uncomfortable because they are the aggressor and the person making the decision about who to attack.”