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It is widely accepted that domestic violence is more commonly perpetrated by males and that women are more likely to suffer physical harm at the hands of their partner (Taft, Hegarty & Flood 2001; Tomison 2000).However, estimates of the distribution of violence vary.

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Debate regarding the rates of violence against men committed by women in intimate relationships still exists, and there has been a growing body of research into the nature and prevalence of male victimisation and domestic violence in homosexual relationships.Research suggests that some women may be more vulnerable to becoming victims and less capable of exiting violent relationships, depending on their age, living arrangements and English language abilities.A number of factors have also been identified as increasing the risk that an individual will become a perpetrator of domestic violence.Family violence is a broader term that refers to violence between family members, as well as violence between intimate partners.This summary paper focuses on the issue of domestic violence.In Indigenous communities, 'family violence' is often the preferred term as it encapsulates the broader issue of violence within extended families (Stanley, Tomison & Pocock 2003).

Domestic violence is not limited to physical violence and involves a range of different forms of abuse. Definitions of domestic violence commonly include reference to: While most people consider domestic violence to be comprised of physical and sexual assaults, there is evidence that fewer people regard social, psychological and financial abuse as constituting domestic violence (Vic Health 2009).

Victimisation surveys are an important source of information on the nature and extent of domestic violence because the rate of reporting for domestic violence incidents is low.

Recent estimates suggest that only 14 to 36 percent of victims reported the most recent incident of domestic violence to police, although the rate of reporting has increased over the past decade (Marcus & Braaf 2007).

Injuries from assault committed by a spouse have been found to be more severe than injuries resulting from non-spousal assault (Borooah & Mangan 2006).

The period during a relationship breakdown and separation is a particularly risky time for domestic violence between ex-partners (Flood & Fergus 2008).

One possible explanation for the low reporting rate is that victims of physical or sexual violence committed by current partners may be less likely to perceive the incident as a crime than if it were committed by a stranger (Mouzos & Makkai 2004).