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Sexual assault and sexual abuse are the most under reported criminal offences and therefore the most difficult to accurately analyse. However, the vast majority of available statistics show that women report incidents of sexual assault more than men, regardless of age. The Personal Safety Survey (2005a) undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in the 12 months prior to the survey, 1.3% (101,600) of Australian women were sexually assaulted, while 0.6% (42,300) of Australian men were sexually assaulted. Furthermore, 17.0% (362,400) of men had been sexually assaulted at least once since they were 15, while 16.8% (1,293,100) of women had at least one experience. Overall, 84% of all sexual assault victims were female, with the highest rate occurring in girls aged between 10 and 14 years, 516 per 100,000 females. Similarly, the highest rate for males was also between the ages of 10 and 14 years (88 per 100,000 relevant persons), followed by boys under 10 years old (70 per 100,000 relevant persons). Sexual assault victims younger than 10 years old consisted of 30% males and in older age groups males made up 15% or less of the population.
It is difficult to estimate the number of Aboriginal people who are sexually assaulted due to unreliable recording. However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) found that approximately 5.6% of sexual assault victims in New South Wales were Aboriginal, while 12.6% of sexual assault victims in Queensland were Aboriginal.
A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) found that 65% of reported sexual assaults in 2005 occurred in private dwellings, followed by in the street/footpath (7%).
The Personal Safety Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005a) found that the perpetrator in 75% of sexual assaults was known to the victim. Of these, two in five perpetrators (40.4%) were family members or friends. For male victims this figure increased to 43.7% compared to 39.0% for women. Women experienced sexual assault by another known person in 32.0% of cases and in 35.1% for men. A greater proportion of men (32.9%) experienced sexual assault by a stranger compared to women (21.8%).
More than a third (35.6%) of women who experienced sexual violence by a partner in 2005 were also sexually abused as a child (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005a). While almost three out ten men and women who were victims of sexual violence also experienced physical abuse as a child (26.7% and 27.7% respectively).
The Personal Safety Survey reports that in the 12 months prior to the survey, 19.0% (1,459,500) of women experienced harassment while 11.6% (864,300) of men were harassed. It was found that 7.9% (606,500) of women and 3.9% (291,100) of men had experienced indecent exposure. Another 9.6% (736,200) of women and 3.6% (267 600) of men had been touched sexually without consent.
Between 2004 and 2005, approximately 45% of sexual assault defendants found guilty in magistrates court received a custodial order, while 22% received a non-custodial monetary order (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005a). However, during the same period 74% of sexual assault defendants found guilty in higher courts received a custodial sentence.
Since 1995 the number of sexual assaults reported has been steadily increasing each year on average by 4% (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2006a). Sexual assaults appear to be reported most frequently between January to March and September to November, while April through to July show the least number of reported cases.
The Personal Safety Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005a) found that the majority (32.4%) of children under 15 years who have experienced sexual abuse are aged between 11 and 14 years. There does not appear to be a differentiation in gender (males 32.8% and females 32.3%). Furthermore, the perpetrator is usually a male relative other than the father (30.2%). When comparing male and female victims the perpetrator is usually a male relative other than the father for female victims (35.1%), but another known person (27.3%) for male victims.
‘Turning the Corner 2007: Recent Crime Trends in Western Australia’ (Office of Crime Prevention, 2007) states that the rate of sexual assault in Western Australia has increased, and has been steadily increasing since 2004. There were 1,385 reported cases of sexual assault during 2003 and by the end of 2006 the number of reported cases increased to 1,786 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). However, between 1999 and 2003 the rate of reported sexual assaults was on a downward trend, with a decrease of 24% by the end of the period (Office of Crime Prevention, 2007). It has been suggested that the increase may not necessarily indicate that the number of sexual assaults committed has increased, but is due to the number of sexual assaults reported to the police. Furthermore, in 2004 the recording system used by police improved, allowing for more accurate recording of offence categories.
The average number of sexual assaults reported to police in the first six months of 2007 was higher than the number recorded the previous year (Office of Crime Prevention, 2007). Unlike the statistics that have been shown for the nation, there is little difference between genders. 1.7% of Western Australian females experienced sexual violence (includes sexual assault and sexual threats) in 2005, compared to 1.6% of males (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005a).