Emotional abuse by a partner

Emotional abuse includes a broad range of behaviours or actions that are aimed at preventing or controlling the victim’s behaviour, causing them emotional harm or fear. Understanding the nature and prevalence of emotional abuse by a partner can help inform the development and evaluation of policies, programs and services. Data on the prevalence of emotional abuse in Australia is available from the ABS Personal Safety Survey (PSS) which collects information on the experiences of violence for women and men in Australia.

The visualisation below shows the estimated number and proportion of Australians aged 18 and over who have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner at least once since the age of 15 (lifetime prevalence), and at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey (12 month prevalence), by sex of respondent.

People who have experienced emotional abuse by a partner, by sex, 2016

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Time series

Examining the prevalence of emotional abuse over time can help identify shifts in behaviour, and evaluate the impact of relevant policies and programs.

The visualisation below shows the proportion of people aged 18 and over who experienced emotional abuse by a current partner in the 12 months prior to the survey, by sex and at 3 time points. It shows that emotional abuse by a current partner increased between 2012 and 2016 for women and men. This may reflect a real-world change and/or a change in the propensity to report, for example due to increased awareness and/or recognition of emotional abuse behaviours.

Proportion of people who have experienced emotional abuse by a current partner in the last 12 months, by sex, 2005, 2012 and 2016

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Population groups

Examining the prevalence of emotional abuse across different population groups can help to identify those groups that are at higher risk. This information can be used to inform the development of more targeted programs and services for victims and perpetrators of emotional abuse.

The visualisation below shows the estimated number and proportion of people aged 18 and over who have experienced emotional abuse by a partner at least once in the last 12 months for various population groups.

12 month prevalence of emotional abuse by a partner, by population group and sex, 2016 

Visualisation not available for printing