The number of people charged with sexual assault in Australia has gone up by 19% in the last twelve months, according to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In the 2013-14 statistics, 7,175 people aged 10 years or over had been charged with sexual assault, up from 6,006 the year before. These statistics include people charged with sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, child sex abuse offences and possessing child sex abuse material.
Of the 7,175 people charged in 2013-14, 93% were men.
The number of young people charged with sexual offences has risen by 36% in twelve months; in the 2012-13 study, there were 1,369 young men and women charged, but in 2013-14 this number has risen to 1,855.
It is difficult to discern whether these large spikes in figures are related to an overall increase in the number of sexual assaults committed in Australia, or whether they are a result of increased awareness and increased reporting of sexual assault when it does occur.
“My sense is that the increasing community and public attention to violence against women occurring across much of Australia might be resulting in increased reporting of sexual (violence) against women in general, as well as violence against women in intimate relationships,” No to Violence spokesperson Rodney Vlais said.
He also acknowledged that although it is positive that the likelihood of sexual assaults being reported has increased, it also means these numbers are likely very conservative estimates of the actual number of assaults that are committed in Australia.
“Of course, reported sexual violence to police is just the tip of the iceberg, as most assaults go unreported, including sexual violence that men use against their intimate partners.”
The issue of men’s sexual violence against their intimate partners has been addressed in recent months by campaigns such as the End the Right to Rape petition. Still, however, sexual assault in marriage or relationships is often committed with relative impunity.
The ABS study also found that overall homicide rates had dropped by 11% in twelve months.
This stands in stark contrast with statistics Women’s Agenda reported last week pointing to the fact that rates of domestic violence related homicides are rising. Two women are now killed every week by a partner or former partner.
In fact, the ABS data showed that the rate of most violent crimes had decreased. So why are both sexual assault and domestic violence on the rise?