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Kyp Kypri

Jan 262010

POLICE are charging more women with assault in the Hunter and health workers say alcohol abuse is mostly to blame.

04 Jan, 2010

A Herald investigation has found that while the number of men arrested in the Hunter for non-domestic assaults has remained stable during the past decade, the number of women charged has increased almost 40 per cent.

Data prepared for The Herald by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research also shows a 200 per cent surge in the number of women proceeded against by police for domestic violence-related assaults from October 1999 to September 2009.

This compares with an increase of 60 per cent in the number of men charged with domestic violence-related assaults during the same period.

Health workers and police said dangerous alcohol consumption was playing a significant role in the increased aggression levels among women.

Hunter New England director of population health Dr John Wiggers described the increased female violence level as “not surprising”.

Dr Wiggers said while the number of Hunter men considered “at-risk” drinkers was decreasing, research showed there was not the same level of improvement for women.

“Drinking levels for young females has remained the same or become slightly worse,” Dr Wiggers said.

“It makes sense that if more women are drinking to excess, violence levels will increase.”

According to NSW Health statistics, 28.9 per cent of Hunter women were classified as at-risk drinkers in 2008, downing more than four drinks on a regular basis and increasing the chance of long-term health issues.

More than 44 per cent of women between 16 and 24 were considered at-risk drinkers, followed by 42 per cent of women aged from 35 to 44.

A further 5.2 per cent of Hunter women drink at least seven drinks a day and were classified as high-risk drinkers.

Dominant age groups in this category are 16 to 24, followed by 25- to 34-year-olds.

Bureau deputy director Jackie Fitzgerald said while there was definitely a noticeable trend of increased violence among Hunter women, men were still the dominant offenders in violent crimes.

“Women appear to be closing the gap, but the gap is still very large, with male offenders typical,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“But the increasing trend for women is becoming more and more significant and it is something that is of concern.”

Senior research fellow from the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, Kyp Kypri, said there were more alcoholic drinks being marketed for women than ever before.

Dr Kypri, who co-authored a report on inner-city violence in Newcastle last month, said this correlated with a surge in consumption.

“Unfortunately the situation is that more and more young women are emulating young men’s behaviour,” he said.

“There is significant change in gender roles and this can be both positive and negative for women.”