Australia’s sexual assault shame: One in six women a victim, putting Australia way above world average
Sue Dunlevy National health reporter News Corp Australia Network
AUSTRALIAN women are being sexually assaulted at twice the rate of women worldwide.
One in six Australian women have been the victim of a sexual assault by a non-partner, compared to one in 14 women around the world, a new study shows.Despite our greater gender equality, we rank third after the war-torn Congo and the southern African nations of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe for rates of sexual assault against women.
When sexual assaults by partners are included more than one in five — or 2.3 million
GANG-RAPE VICTIM ‘KNEW ATTACKERS’
Australian women aged over 15 are victims of rape, according to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.
A major review of sexual assaults by someone other than a partner published in The Lancet was prompted by recent highly publicised rapes and murders of young women in India.
“Findings indicated that rapes by strangers are more violent and have higher risk of involvement of weapons and injury than those by known perpetrators,” the study found.
The research reviewed more than 7,000 studies on sexual assault from around the world.
It found that “non-partner sexual violence is widespread and in some regions is endemic, reaching more than 15 per cent in four regions”.
However, it said the figures could underestimate the size of the problem in many countries where stigma and blame attach to sexual assault and women fail to report it.
TEEN DRUGGED, RAPED, FORCED TO MARRY
In India and Bangladesh, for example, data reported that just 3.3 per cent of women were victims of sexual assault.
The country with the worst sexual assault record was the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo where more than one in five women were victims of sexual assault by a non-partner. This was followed by Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe where 17.4 per cent of women were raped.
Astoundingly, Australia (which was paired with New Zealand in the research) came third in the worldwide study with 16.4 per cent of women reporting being raped by someone other than a partner.
One reason for the high rate in Australia is that women are more likely to report a rape than those in other countries where women who are raped are stigmatised or unable to report the crime.
In some countries in the study there was just one report estimating the prevalence of sexual assault, in Australia there were 25 reports giving estimates, increasing the chance of a more realistic figure.
NSW Rape Crisis Centre executive officer Karen Willis says more than 70 per cent of these sexual assaults are carried out by family members, friends, work or school colleagues.
A further 29 per cent of rapes are perpetrated by someone the woman meets socially or occur on a date.
Just one per cent of rapes are committed by strangers, she said.
Even though Australia was doing well in terms of working towards equal rights for women, rates of violence towards women had not changed, she said.
More work needed to be done to equalise the status of women and there needed to be cultural change among men so they didn’t abuse the power and control they had, she said.
Kathryn Yount, from Emory University in Atlanta, told the Lancet the prevalence of sexual assault found by the study was “unacceptably high on public health and human rights ground” and should spur changes to the law and systems of accountability.
Percentage of women who have been sexually assaulted by someone other than their partner. (global figure and by country/countries)
Global — 7.2%
Japan — 12.2%
Kazakhstan — 6.4%
Hong Kong — 5.8%
India, Bangladesh — 3.3%
Philippines, East Timor, Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka — 5.2%
New Zealand, Australia — 16.4%
Belize — 10.3%
Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo — 10.7%
Lithuania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan — 6.9%
Switzerland, Spain, Isle of Man, Sweden, UK, Denmark, Finland, Germany — 11.5%
Peru — 15.3%
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Jamaica — 11.8%
Uruguay, Argentina — 5.8%
Brazil — 7.6%
Turkey — 4.5%
USA, Canada — 13.0%
Samoa, Kiribati — 14.8%
Democratic Republic of the Congo — 21.0%
Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia — 11.4%
Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe — 17.4%
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ghana — 9.1%
Source: The Lancet