Victims' perceptions of the criminality of their assault experiences: Analysis of physical assaults and threats by males captured in the 2005 Personal Safety Survey

Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/06-07)

Victimization surveys have been widely adopted since the nineteen seventies and have provided a valuable alternative source of information about the prevalence and incidence of crime. They question the public directly and they gather information about victimization events regardless of whether they have been reported to police. Furthermore, they explore the reasons why events are, or are not, reported. Surveys, therefore, provide one way of investigating the dark figure of crime; defined by Biderman and Reiss (1967: 1) as, 'occurrences that by some criteria are called crime, yet that are not registered in the statistics of whatever agency was the source of data being used.' Recent estimates produced from the British Crime Survey (BCS) suggest that approximately 57 percent of all crime is unreported (Nicholas, Povey, Walker & Kershaw 2005).

Surveys generally find that property offences such as completed breakins and motor vehicle theft are reported to police at a high rate (74% and 90%, respectively, e.g., ABS 2006a). Surprisingly, however, violent victimizations such as robbery, assault, and sexual assault, are less likely to come to police notice. For example, 32 percent of Australian assaults were reported in 1994 (ABS 1995), 28 percent in 1998 (ABS 1999), and 31 percent in both 2002 (ABS 2003) and 2005 (ABS 2006a). Assault victimizations are of particular interest because they are sufficiently numerous to be amenable to analysis and they have a large reporting gap that demands explanation.