True number of sexual violence perpetrators revealed

Hands around jail bars. | Newsreel
Almost a quarter of Australian adults surveyed have admitted to being perpetrators of sexual violence. | Photo: Rafa Jodar (iStock)

Almost a quarter of Australian adults have perpetrated acts of sexual violence, with one in 14 having done so in the past 12 months.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), released today, based on a survey of more than 5000 Australians aged 18 to 45, found 22.1 percent had perpetrated sexual violence since turning 18.

AIC Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said, in addition, one in 14 of the survey respondents said they had perpetrated sexual violence in the past 12 months.

Dr Brown said the focus on perpetration estimates of sexual violence was important in understanding the drivers of perpetration and for concentrating prevention efforts on perpetrators rather than victims.

He said little research had examined the self-reported prevalence of sexual violence perpetration in Australia.

“The estimates in this study are drawn on self-reported data and may overcome many of the issues inherent in official data held by police and criminal justice agencies, which have been relied upon to gauge the prevalence of sexual violence perpetration in Australia.

“Perpetrators who have contact with the criminal justice system represent only a small proportion of those who have perpetrated sexual violence. The vast majority of offences and perpetrators are never reported to police, and attrition rates are high among cases of sexual violence that do come to the attention of police, meaning few actually progress to prosecution and conviction,” Dr Brown said.

The most common forms of sexual violence perpetrated in the previous 12 months were:

  • Pressuring someone for dates or sexual activity (3.8 percent).
  • Emotionally or psychologically manipulating someone to participate in sexual activity (2.7 percent).
  • Non-consensual kissing (2.6 percent).
  • Non-consensual touching (2.4 percent).
  • Pressuring someone to participate in unprotected sexual activity (2.4 percent).
  • Engaging in image-based sexual abuse (2.1 percent).
  • Non-consensual sexual intercourse (1.8 percent).

Dr Brown said men were more likely than women to commit all forms of sexual violence and were also more likely to perpetrate sexual violence more frequently.

“These findings fill an important gap in the Australian evidence base, while also contributing to efforts to monitor and evaluate approaches to reducing sexual violence by providing more accurate estimates of its rate of perpetration,” Dr Brown said.

Read the full report.