In order to tackle any problem, we need to know the extent of it and the reasons for it. The 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey reports domestic violence levels at about 7% of the population and that two-thirds of the victims are women. However, it also reports that there has been a dramatic (175%) increase in men as victims since 2005 (93% by women). Further, two women and one man are killed in domestic homicides each fortnight.
Politicians, police, and women’s organizations have spread the following Woozle far and wide:
DV is the leading cause of death and injury for women aged under 45.
Wow! We are led to believe that women are dropping like flies due to domestic violence. Therefore, it would be considered the truth by those who formulate policy and domestic violence law. This leads to even more skewed legislation and policies. The extensive media coverage also always includes this Woozle, which is actually drawn from two VicHealth reports:
Intimate partner violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in Victorian women under the age of 45 than any other of the well-known preventable risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. 
In Victoria, intimate partner violence contributes nine per cent to the total disease burden of women aged 15 to 44 years. This makes it the leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death for this group, outstripping other known risk factors including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and illicit drug use 
This percentage is dwarfed by other causes as it is slightly less than one-tenth of the total. Further reading of these reports uncovers that a percentage of mental illness is because of domestic violence, though we are not told how much, but another report states:
Among the younger women, sole mothers were more likely than other women to have experienced suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Among the younger and mid-age women, sole mothers were more than twice as likely to have experienced depression, and had significantly poorer psychological health and used medication for depression 
No men here, but single mothers obviously are a significant contributor to the mental illness burden since lone-parent families comprise 15% of all families, with single-mother families making up the vast majority of lone-parent families (83%).
When all this is considered, the truth is something quite different.
Domestic violence does not make the list of the top causes of death and illness.
For women under 45, the top causes of death and illness are:
- anxiety and depression
- type 2 diabetes
Clearly, although domestic violence is a problem, it is not of the scale that the media, politicians, police, and women’s organizations claim. Exaggeration and distortion of the facts will not contribute to solving or reducing domestic violence. Also unhelpful is treating men as perpetrators only. This allows one-third of the domestic violence problem—that is, violence perpetrated by females—to be completely ignored.
I have sent the following to Media Watch ABC, the Australian Press Council, Independent Media Council, FreeTV, and ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) (contacts given below):
The following Woozle (factoid) has been widely disseminated in the media:
“DV is the leading cause of death and injury for women aged under 45.”
This is incorrect, as the VicHealth report says:
“In Victoria, intimate partner violence contributes nine per cent to the total disease burden of women aged 15 to 44 years. This makes it the leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death for this group, outstripping other known risk factors including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and illicit drug use.”
Something quite different.
DV does not make the list of the top causes of death and illness.
For women under 45, these are:
- Anxiety & Depression 2. Migraine 3 .Type 2 diabetes 4. Asthma 5. Schizophrenia.
Media should stop disseminating, correct, withdraw and/or publish the correct wording from the VicHealth report.
This Woozle (factoid) is factually incorrect and breaches the code of conduct.
There is strength in numbers, and I urge others to also send an email (as suggested) to these peak bodies (mostly) and Media Watch (as it is more likely to get TV time).
Free TV (parent body for all commercial TV)
Australian Press Council
Independent Media Council
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
The Sydney Morning Herald
Brisbane Courier Mail
- Preventing violence against women in Australia
- The health cost of violence
- Burden of disease due to mental illness and mental health problems 2007