Childhood experience of abuse


Some people may find the contents of this section confronting or distressing. Support services are available:

Theme: Secure
Dimension: Living peacefully and feeling safe


Proportion of people who have experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15 years

Why does this matter

Childhood experience of abuse has severe impacts on mental health and health risk behaviours throughout a person’s life. The Australian study found that of people (aged 16 years and above) who experienced childhood maltreatment, were 2.8 times more likely to experience a form of mental health disorder – at least one of four assessed in the study – than those who have not experienced maltreatment.1

Has there been progress

The number of people who experience abuse before the age of 15 is unacceptably high. The ABS Personal Safety Survey in 2021–22 found 14.1 per cent of people aged 18 years and over have experienced abuse during their childhood. The proportion of women who experience abuse before the age of 15 is higher at 17.5 per cent compared 10.6 per cent for men in 2021‑22.

1 Haslam D, Mathews B, Pacella R, Scott JG, Finkelhor D, Higgins DJ, Meinck F, Erskine HE, Thomas HJ, Lawrence D, Malacova E. (2023) The prevalence and impact of child maltreatment in Australia: Findings from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study: Brief Report. Australian Child Maltreatment Study, Queensland University of Technology.
Last updated