Violent crime has soared 44 per cent across the nation in a year, as drunks repeatedly assault the same victims.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a surge in the number of repeat assault victims during 2011/12.
One in every three victims was harmed at least three times during the year.
But only half reported the crimes to police – including a third of sexual assault victims.
ABS National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics director Fiona Dowsley yesterday said the number of physical assaults had jumped 44 per cent, from 1.5 million in 2010/11 to 2.2 million in 2011/12.
But the number of victims had barely changed.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of people who have been assaulted more than once in the 12 months,” Ms Dowsley said.
The data reveals one in three victims was assaulted at least three times during the year – up from the one-in-four rate reported in 2010/11.
Alcohol and drugs fuelled most of the assaults, with 59 per cent of victims believing their assailant had been drunk or drugged at the time.
Three in every 100 Australians aged 15 or older were physically assaulted – pushed or grabbed, shoved, slapped, kicked, bitten, choked, hit, burnt or shot – during 2011/12.
Assault was more common in regional areas than the capital cities.
The Australian Institute of Criminology’s violent crime research manager, Jason Payne, said the findings could reflect growing domestic violence.
He said many victims were reluctant to dob in friends or family.
“Some of the violence occurs in a very familiar environment, so there’s not the desire to become involved in a criminal case involving friends and family,” he said.
“The increase in the victimisation rate is an interesting and surprising trend, and one we shouldn’t ignore.”
Queensland has the highest assault rate on the eastern seaboard, with 3.1 per cent of over-14s assaulted compared to 2.7 per cent in NSW and 3 per cent in Victoria.
In Queensland, 437,000 assaults involved 111,700 victims in 2011/12 – with 30.5 per cent assaulted at least three times.
NSW boasts the nation’s lowest rate of assault, with 2.7 per cent of over-14s assaulted compared to 4.6 per cent in the Northern Territory and 4 per cent in Tasmania.
In NSW, 612,000 assaults involved 158,200 victims, with 31.4 per cent assaulted at least three times.
Victoria’s assault rate of 3 per cent of over-14s is higher than NSW’s 2.7 per cent but below Queensland’s rate of 3.1 per cent.
In Victoria, 588,600 assaults involved 134,900 victims – with 38.1 per cent assaulted at least three times during the year.
South Australia’s assault rate of 2.8 per cent of over-14s is among the lowest in the nation, only slightly above NSW’s 2.7 per cent but well below the 4.6 per cent in the Northern Territory.
In South Australia, 171,200 assaults involved 36,800 victims, with 33.5 per cent assaulted at least three times during the year.
Tasmania’s assault rate of 4 per cent of over-14s is far higher than Victoria’s rate of 3 per cent, and the 2.7 per cent in NSW.
In Tasmania, 61,000 assaults involved 16,400 victims – with one in four victims assaulted twice and 36 per cent three times during the year.
The Northern Territory’s assault rate of 4.6 per cent of over-14s is nearly double that in NSW, where 2.7 per cent of residents were assaulted.
In the Territory, 18,900 assaults involved 6300 victims, with 68 per cent assaulted at least twice during the year.
A million extra cases of threatened assaults – including threats made by text message or email – pushed the number to 4.4 million last financial year.
The ABS data shows 213,000 Australians received threats of assault, via phone, email or social media during the year – with just 28 per cent of victims alerting police.
Another 596,000 people were threatened with physical assault face-to-face, yet just 38 per cent lodged a police complaint.
The ABS found that 51,200 Australian adults were sexually assaulted during 2011/12 – yet only 30 per cent reported to police.
The ABS survey found that three-quarters of Australians believe that “police can be relied upon”.
Yet just 56 per cent agreed that the criminal courts ensure a fair trial.
The ABS results, based on interviews with 26,382 Australians, are higher than the official crime rates because they record assaults that have not been reported to police.