Published Papers - Abstract 82

Parker G & Lee C. Violence and abuse: An assessment of mid-aged Australian women's experiences. Australian Psychologist, 2002; 37(2): 142-148

Little systematic research has been conducted in Australia to develop a picture of women's experiences of violence and abuse across their lifetimes. The present study was designed to address this deficiency by assessing the prevalence of different types of abuse, the situations in which they occur, how women have coped, and the effect of abusive encounters on general health and wellbeing. Using self-report questionnaires, data were obtained from 1,159 women aged 48 to 53, previously recruited in the Women's Health Australia longitudinal project. Measures included descriptors of the abuse and help-seeking behaviours, and measures of general wellbeing and depression. The most frequently reported forms of abuse were emotional, physical and sexual. These overwhelmingly occurred in the home, and across all life stages, but mostly in adulthood, and most commonly on an occasional or weekly basis. Perpetrators were usually persons known to the victim. Most abusive encounters were not recent but, when experienced, had persisted over time and had negatively affected mental and physical health. The majority of women had discussed their circumstances with close relatives, friends, or professional persons. One-third of respondents had reported abusive episodes to the police, and almost half of these had found it helpful to do so. The data show that abuse is a fact of life for many Australian women and demonstrate a continuing need for appropriate prevention and intervention strategies.