Invisible women, invisible violence: Understanding and improving data on the experiences of domestic and family violence and sexual assault for diverse groups of women: State of knowledge paper

Thursday, 15th December 2016

Women from all cultures, ages and socio-economic groups are affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault, but the extent, nature and impact is not evenly distributed across communities in Australia. Women from diverse backgrounds are disproportionally affected by violence. The differential nature and effects of this violence is often compounded by various forms of marginalisation for diverse groups of women such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse and women with disability.

Invisible women, invisible violence establishes the state of knowledge about the experiences of domestic and family violence and sexual assault among women from diverse groups. Reviewing existing knowledge and data on the experiences of violence and identifying key gaps in data as they relate to diverse women, it also affirms the more complex message that, while we know there is disproportionate impact, the exact nature and scale of this difference is extremely difficult to quantify.

Despite not knowing the exact quantum of the violence, there is significant evidence that expressions of violence in these communities are distinct, and that these differences require considered and specific service and policy responses, for which data that is coherent, accessible, relevant and accurate is needed.

This paper finds there are challenges within the Australian research and data landscapes in understanding the experiences of domestic and family violence and sexual assault for the diverse groups. Four key gaps in information in the current Australian research landscape were identified:

·         Limitations in quantitative evidence on the prevalence and perpetration of violence;

·         The complexity and specificity of violence;

·         Multiple, intersecting barriers to reporting violence and accessing appropriate services and;

·         “Diversity within diversity”— the intersections of identity and disadvantage.

 In the process of mapping the current Australian data landscape, this paper identified that while a wide range of data are currently being collected administratively and via surveys, there are limitations of individual data sources and across the Australian data landscape as a whole. The analysis identified the following five key data gaps as they relate to the diverse experiences of domestic and family violence and sexual assault:

1) Design and methodological gaps in data sources;

2) Definitional complexities within data sources;

3) Gaps in the quality of existing data sources;

4) Gaps in recording and reporting of data; and

5) Gaps in the leveraging of existing data for the creation of new statistical information.

This project provides 36 options for enhancing Australia’s domestic and family violence and sexual assault data landscape in the short to medium term. Options for improvement range in cost from under $250,000 to several million dollars and provide both discrete and ongoing improvements. While each option provides valuable enhancements to the data landscape, decisions regarding which options to progress will always reflect complex policy and budgetary considerations and, as such, may or may not align with these suggestions. A long term commitment to fit-for-purpose data collection and analysis through the implementation of the Foundation for a "National Data Collection and Reporting Framework for family, domestic and sexual violence" (DCRF) is also crucial to ensuring systemic change and improvement in policy and practice.

Download Landscapes Issue DD01-2016.pdf

This work is part of the ANROWS Landscapes series. ANROWS Landscapes (State of knowledge papers) are medium length papers that scope current knowledge on an issue related to violence against women and their children. Papers will draw on empirical research, including research produced under ANROWS’s research program, and/or practice knowledge.