The study was based on interviews with 7,125 Australian women who participated in the General Social Survey (GSS), a large nationally representative sample survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006.
The results of the study show that the risk of actual or threatened violence was significantly higher who in the last 12 months have experienced financial stress.
The risk is also much higher among those who experience personal stressors such as divorce or separation, death of a family member/close friend, serious illness, serious accident, mental illness, serious disability, inability to get a job, involuntary loss of job and gambling problems.
The risk of actual or threatened violence in the previous 12 months for a woman at the lowest levels of financial and social stress was 4 per cent. At the highest levels of financial stress, that risk jumped to nearly 15 per cent. For women experiencing high levels of both financial stress and personal stress, the risk of actual or threatened violence was 36 per cent.
The risk of actual or threatened violence was also higher for younger women (e.g. those aged 18-24), for sole parents, for those who had alcohol and/or drug problems, for those who lacked social support (i.e. someone outside the household they could turn to for support in a crisis) and for those who did not feel free to raise important issues with friends and family.
Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, emphasized that it is difficult to tell which of these factors are causes of violence and which are consequences.
“Financial and personal stress may lead to violence but they can also be consequences of violence. Women forced to leave violent households may find themselves experiencing a significant drop in income. The violence itself may result in significant mental health or drug or alcohol problems.”
“The value of this research is not that it settles the question of what causes violence against women. We are a long way from settling that. It is that it gives us a much clearer picture of the profile of women who suffer actual or threatened violence.”
“The current findings show that female victims of violence suffer high levels of financial stress and are much more likely in the last 12 months to have recently experienced serious illness, a serious accident, mental illness, serious disability, inability to get a job, involuntary loss of job and gambling problems.”