Home violence hits all: study

Men are as likely to be assaulted by their partners as women, and both sexes report similar levels of pain and need for medical attention after domestic violence, according to new research from Melbourne University.

A national sample survey of 1643 Australians in relationships found that 4.7per cent had been physically assaulted by a partner in the previous year.

Violence runs in couples, with partners striking each other in more than half of violent relationships.

The research found the only gender difference was that more women than men felt frightened or intimidated by their partner’s threats of violence.

The study, Domestic Violence in Australia, was based on an analysis of questions asked in the 1997 International Social Science Survey by the Australian National University. The questions related only to physical violence and did not canvass mental cruelty or sexual assault.

The domestic violence figures were analysed by a Melbourne University team headed by Associate Professor Bruce Headey of the Centre for Public Policy.

Professor Headey said yesterday he was confident that most of the findings were reliable, except for the figures relating to male injuries. He warned that the gender-neutral rates of injury reported in this study were not supported by other, more objective data such as medical records or police reports.

Nearly four times more women than men are murdered by their partners each year, and five times as many women as men go to hospitals with domestic violence injuries.

“We’re really talking about `in-between’ violence, not the very serious cases,” Professor Headey said.

The survey found almost exactly the same percentage of men admitted assault (3.4per cent) as the number of women who reported being assaulted (3.7 per cent). But more men claimed to be assaulted (5.7 per cent) than women admitted assault (3.6 per cent).

The study found that most people who had grown up in violent households did not become violent.

But of the men who had violent fathers, 9.8 per cent were violent themselves. The rate was only 2.5 per cent among men with non-violent fathers.

Women with violent fathers were more likely to be victims as adults. Women with violent mothers were more likely to become offenders themselves.

First published in The Age.