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Domestic violence leading cause for women and girls hospitalised from assault

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New data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that nearly 6,500 women and girls were hospitalised due to assault in Australia in 2013–14, with the violence usually perpetrated by a partner or spouse.

The statistics on the deaths and serious injuries resulting from family and domestic violence has been called a national epidemic, and one of Australia’s biggest social, legal and health problems.

The AIHW examined cases of hospitalised assault against women during that period and it exposed that when place of occurrence was specified, 69 per cent of assaults against women and girls took place in the home.

“While women and girls are, overall, hospitalised as the result of assault at a rate that is less than half the equivalent rate for men (56 cases per 100,000 females compared to 121 cases per 100,000 males), the patterns of injury seen for females are different to that seen for males,” AIHW spokesperson Professor James Harrison said.

AIHW data highlights:

  • Nearly 60 per cent of hospitalised assaults against women and girls were perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner.
  • More than half (59 per cent or 3,685) of all women and girls hospitalised due to assault were victims of an assault by bodily force and a further quarter of all hospitalised assault cases against women and girls involved a blunt (17 per cent or 1,048 cases) or sharp object (9 per cent or 551 cases).
  • Open wounds (22 per cent or 1,400 cases), fractures (22 per cent or 1,375) and superficial injuries (19 per cent or 1,194) accounted for almost two-thirds of the types of assault injuries sustained by women and girls.
  • In the 15 years and older age group, 8 per cent of victims were pregnant at the time of the assault.

The AIHW notes that the data used in their report probably underestimates the incidence of hospitalised assault resulting from domestic violence, as victims can be reluctant to report an incident to hospital personnel or to identify a perpetrator for hospital records.

The AMA believes the medical profession has key roles to play in early detection, intervention and provision of specialised treatment of those who suffer the consequences of family and domestic violence, whether it be physical, sexual or emotional.

Further the AMA advocates that medical practitioners must encourage attitudes and actions necessary to prevent family and domestic violence, identify women, men, families and children ‘at risk’, prevent further violence and assist patients to receive appropriate help and protection.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au  In an emergency, call 000

Meredith Horne

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