Surveillance of Domestic Violence Using Text Mining Outputs From Australian Police Records

George Karystianis, Armita Adily, Peter W. Schofield, Handan Wand, Wilson Lukmanjaya, Iain Buchan, Goran Nenadic, Tony Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Australia, domestic violence reports are mostly based on data from the police, courts, hospitals, and ad hoc surveys. However, gaps exist in reporting information such as victim injuries, mental health status and abuse types. The police record details of domestic violence events as structured information (e.g., gender, postcode, ethnicity), but also in text narratives describing other details such as injuries, substance use, and mental health status. However, the voluminous nature of the narratives has prevented their use for surveillance purposes. We used a validated text mining methodology on 492,393 police-attended domestic violence event narratives from 2005 to 2016 to extract mental health mentions on persons of interest (POIs) (individuals suspected/charged with a domestic violence offense) and victims, abuse types, and victim injuries. A significant increase was observed in events that recorded an injury type (28.3% in 2005 to 35.6% in 2016). The pattern of injury and abuse types differed between male and female victims with male victims more likely to be punched and to experience cuts and bleeding and female victims more likely to be grabbed and pushed and have bruises. The four most common mental illnesses (alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder, depression schizophrenia) were the same in male and female POIs. An increase from 5.0% in 2005 to 24.3% in 2016 was observed in the proportion of events with a reported mental illness with an increase between 2005 and 2016 in depression among female victims. These findings demonstrate that extracting information from police narratives can provide novel insights into domestic violence patterns including confounding factors (e.g., mental illness) and thus enable policy responses to address this significant public health problem.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Early online date9 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2022


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