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Sexual assault cases increase in Australia for tenth year in a row, reveals ABS data

Almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of victim-survivors were under the age of 18 when the sexual assault occurred.

The number of police-recorded victims of sexual assault has increased in Australia by 13 per cent in 2021. This is the tenth annual rise in a row as per data revealed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Sexual assault victimisation ratea 1993 2021 1

William Milne, head of crime and justice statistics at the ABS, said in a statement there were 31,118 sexual assaults in 2021. He added:

“The rate has risen from 83 to 121 victims per 100,000 people since 2011, and that accounts for population changes.”

This is the largest number recorded by police in the 29 years of ABS crime data. ABS recorded a surge in the number of cases in all seven states and territories except the Northern Territory, with the largest increases in:

  • Queensland (up 1,771 victims or 35%)
  • Victoria (up 651 victims or 12%)
  • Western Australia (up 516 victims or 17%)
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The number of recorded victims of sexual assault in the Northern Territory decreased by 4% or 15 victims.

Sexual assault (representative picture); Image Source: @CANVA
Sexual assault (representative picture); Image Source: @CANVA

As per ABS data, almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of victim-survivors were under the age of 18 when the sexual assault occurred. The data also reveals that there were six times more female victim-survivors of sexual assault (26,669) than male victim-survivors (4,350). Further, sexual assaults mostly occurred at residential locations (67%). Over a third, (37 per cent) of sexual assaults were recorded as family and domestic violence-related (11,367 victim-survivors).

ABS notes that since 1993, the rate of victimisation for sexual assault has increased from 69 to 121 victims per 100,000 persons in 2021. Experts say that while the ABS data shows sexual assault cases reported to police, the actual number of cases could be far higher with many going unreported.

Please note that if you or anyone you know is in need or crisis please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline 131 114.

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