Domestic and family violence is so widespread and impactful that just about every Australian community feels its social or economic effects.
The most extreme outcome of domestic or family violence is death. The overrepresentation of women victims in statistics on deaths related to domestic or family violence once again reflects the gendered nature of this issue.1
- National data on homicide from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) tells us that between 2008 and 2010, 89 women were killed by their current or former partner. These deaths were equivalent to 73% of the total intimate partner homicide death toll, equating to nearly one woman every week. 2
- Research by VicHealth has found that domestic violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44 years. This accounts for more of the disease burden than high-blood pressure, smoking, or obesity.3
Domestic and family violence also has serious measurable impacts on physical and mental health, the economy, and is a powerful contributing factor to social issues like homelessness.
Physical and mental health impacts
Women who have been exposed to violence have a greater risk of developing a range of health problems including stress, anxiety, depression, pain syndromes, phobias and somatic and medical symptoms (WHO, 2000). They report poorer physical health overall, are more likely to engage in practices that are harmful to their health and experience difficulties in accessing health services (WHO, 2000).
- As well as leaving survivors with serious physical injuries and ongoing health conditions like chronic pain, domestic violence has been linked to acquired brain injury and traumatic brain injury.1
- Access Economics estimates that in Australia, nearly 18% of all depression experienced by women and 17% of all anxiety disorders experienced by women are related to domestic and family violence.2 Other known mental health impacts of domestic and family violence include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), problematic substance use, and other stress- and trauma-related disorders.3
- Women who have experienced domestic or family violence are at much greater risk of attempting suicide than women who have not.4
- Domestic and family violence can have impacts on a woman’s sexual and reproductive health. Acts of sexual violence in a domestic or family context can cause pain and injury, infections, fertility problems, unwanted pregnancy and even miscarriage.5
Domestic and family violence is a huge economic burden for the nation.
- The National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children projected that domestic violence will cost the Australian economy $9.9 billion in 2021-22 if system responses do not change.1 This figure includes costs associated with homelessness, loss of employment, and costs to the healthcare system—with domestic violence related healthcare alone projected to cost $445 million in 2021-22.2
- In 2002-03, domestic violence cost Australian businesses $175.2 million, with employee absenteeism, permanent loss of labour, and employee death all contributing factors.3 Without any effective intervention, this figure has been expected to rise to $456 million in 2021-22.4
- However, the largest proportion of the economic burden of domestic violence is borne by survivors—equal to $4 billion in 2002-03.1
Women and children escaping family violence are among those most at risk of homelessness, and domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services seeking assistance. Women and their children are often forced to leave their homes to escape domestic and family violence, and can experience extensive trauma – they are physically, emotionally and psychologically affected by not only the loss of their homes but also disruption to their social connections, and their children’s schooling and friendships.
- One in 3 people accessing homelessness services cite domestic violence as the reason for needing assistance— the majority of these people are women (63%) and children (19%).1
- 42% of women approaching homelessness services report that domestic or family violence is the reason they’re seeking help.2
- Nearly 90% of people using homelessness services report that they grew up with conflict in the home. This suggests that childhood exposure to domestic violence is a major risk factor for experiencing homelessness later in life.3
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2013 on Specialist homelessness services 2012-13 (Catalogue number HOU 273) provides relevant information for the ACT. In 2012-13, 5,367 ACT people are reported to have sought support from Specialist Homelessness Services in the ACT – the third highest rate behind the Northern Territory and Victoria with – and more than half (55%) were female. Family and domestic violence was reported as the main reason for females presenting to the ACT Specialist Homelessness Services system in 15% of presentations and a supplementary reason in a further 13% of presentations. For young women aged 15-25 sexual assault within the home reported as the largest reason they seek support from homelessness services.