Thursday March 30, 2016
Family violence: Portrait of an abuserBy Bianca Hall /Legal Affairs Reporter for The Age
Family violence royal commission urges more safety hubs
Watch Royal Commissioner Marcia Neave call for new one-stop safety hubs among other recommendations for the Victorian government. (Video courtesy ABC News 24)
Family violence has a face and we now know what it looks like: an unemployed, 34-year-old Australian-born man.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence - a vast compendium of more than 2000 pages and seven volumes - draws on a wealth of data about the perpetrators - and victims - of family violence, collected over more than a decade.
The average violent partner is 34, unemployed and Australian, but he can come from all walks of life.
Thanks to that data, we now know that it is a small proportion of domestic abusers who account for most of the abuse.
Similarly, most incidents of domestic violence happen only once - or, perhaps, are only reported to police once.
Between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2014, Victoria Police recorded 403,991 family violence incidents against 197,822 offenders.
Of those, more than 60 per cent - or 125,044 people - never came into contact with police for family violence again.
But those dangerous men who bash their partners or ex-partners, and then do it again, display common risk factors that often accompanied their repeat offending.
They were more likely to to be unemployed, with a history of depression or other mental health issues. Their partner was pregnant, or there was a newborn in the home. He drank too much or struggled with drug addiction. Some combination of these issues, or some other stressor, led to an escalation of disputes in the home.
"Though they only represented 9 per cent of all unique perpetrators, the 16,914 recidivist perpetrators who were recorded for five or more incidents accounted for 34 per cent of all incidents," the report notes.
But for those who did, they became more and more likely to assault again.
Chillingly, the presence of children in the home at the time of a violence incident made it more likely there would be another violent episode.
In 65 per cent of incidents where a relationship was recorded, the violence occurred between current or former partners. In the other 35 per cent, another family member - perhaps a child - bore the brunt.
But those who abused their partners or ex-partners were more likely to repeat their abuse than those who assaulted another family member.
Scanning five years of emergency department data from 2009, the commission could trace common injury patterns - more than half the women (56 per cent) reporting family violence at a hospital had been struck by or collided with another person.
The 9 per cent of perpetrators who committed five or more family violence crimes between 2004/05 and 2013/14 were responsible for 34 per cent of all family violence incidents, the Royal Commission found.
"Perpetrators with one to two prior recorded family violence incidents are 2.26 times more likely to be recorded for a recidivism incident than those with no prior recorded incidents. Perpetrators with three or more prior recorded incidents are 4.5 times more likely to be recorded for a recidivism incident."
In one year alone, 2010-11, Victoria Police recorded 30,695 individual abusers.
Despite the assertions of some who would have us believe women are just as likely to abuse as men, where police recorded the offender's gender, they found 77 per cent were male, and 23 per cent female. Women were more likely to assault another family member, while men were more likely to assault their current or former partners.
Based on data provided by homelessness services offering support to people fleeing violence, hospitals, courts and men's behaviour change programs, male offenders are overwhelmingly Australian-born.