Data on disabled people from the latest NZ Crime and Victims Survey

The Ministry of Justice released findings from the fifth cycle of the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey (NZCVS) in June 2023. We take a look at what the data shows about disabled people.

This relates to New Zealand Disability Strategy Outcome Area 4: Our rights are protected; we feel safe, understood, and are treated fairly and equitably by the justice system. A summary of NZCVS findings relating to disability is presented below. A more detailed report on disability and victimisation is being prepared by Justice for release in the second half of 2023.

Cycle 5 covers the period of November 2021 to November 2022. 

Whaikaha summarises data collected and reported by other government agencies as part of our obligations under Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention). Article 31 stipulates that States Parties undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies giving effect to the Convention.  The data and insights are used to inform government policy. For example when the Crime and Victims survey was able to be disaggregated by disability it provided additional evidence for disabled people to be a focus of Te Aorerekura – the National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence.

Disabled people experience higher rates of victimisation than non-disabled people

This section reports on findings using pooled data from 2018 – 2022 after adjusting for age differences.

  • Disabled adults are more likely to:
    • experience victimisation compared to the New Zealand average (40% vs 31%)
    • be victimised by a family member than the New Zealand average (6.8% vs 2.0%), although these results should be interpreted with caution because of sample size
    • experience deliberate use of force or violence (33% vs 14%) and threat to use force or violence than non-disabled adults (29% vs 13%) from an intimate partner during their lifetime
    • report low perceptions of safety (0 to 6 out of 10) if they experienced a personal offence compared to non-disabled adults (34% vs 23%) who experienced personal offences.
  • Disabled adults have a higher lifetime prevalence rate of sexual assault and intimate partner violence than non-disabled adults (48% vs 30%)
  • Disabled people are on the whole “highly victimised” – experiencing four or more victimisation events – compared to the New Zealand average (7% vs 4%).

Intersectionality is linked to higher victimisation rates

  • Gender:
    • in the general population, offences by family members more often happen to females than males (3% vs 1%)
    • disabled females are more likely to experience victimisation by a family member compared to the average for females in New Zealand (6.6% vs 3%)
  • Sexual orientation:
    • the LGBTQIA+ population experience a higher prevalence rate of household offences than the general population (26% vs 19%)
    • the sample size of LGBT disabled people is too small to allow for accurate comparisons,

  • Ethnicity:
    • Māori disabled are more likely to be victims than Māori who are not disabled (44% vs 36%).

  • Living circumstances:
    • disabled adults who live alone are less likely to be victims (all offences) than non-disabled adults who live alone (23% vs 27%).

  • Age:
    • among non-disabled adults, people aged between 20-29 years old experience highest prevalence rates (all offenses).

Increase in victimisation due to COVID-19

  • The impact of COVID on victimisation rates was examined, specifically on prevalence of experiencing sexual assault in a lifetime:
    • a significant increase of 2 percentage points was found for the non-disabled population (from 23.3% to 25.5%).

    • an increase of 8 percentage points was found for the disabled population. Due to sample size this difference was not significant (28.1% to 36.2%). As a point of comparison, prevalence among the LGBTQIA+ community increased significantly by 13.4 percentage points.

Overall trends in victimisation in Cycle 5 of the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey

  • In Cycle 5, there was an overall increase in the experience of crime from 29% to 31%, driven by an increase in the prevalence and incidence of fraud and deception among the general population:
    • 10% of adults experienced fraud and deception (an increase from 6% in cycle 4)
    • 10% experienced burglaries
    • 2% experienced physical offences.

Measurement of disability and New Zealand Crime and Victims methodology

  • The Washington Group Short Set of questions is used to identify disabled people’s responses to the survey. This measure focuses on functional impairment across six areas (walking, seeing, hearing, cognition, self-care, and communication). The questions have been tested internationally and have been developed as a reliable and efficient way of disaggregating disability data in surveys and censuses.
  • The sample in Cycle 5 included 367 disabled individuals and 4,955 non-disabled people. Note, the overall sample was smaller in Cycle 5 due to COVID disruptions – recall the traffic light system was announced in December 2021, and this study was in the field between November 2021 and mid-2022. As such, this sample is about two-thirds of the sample usually obtained.

  • Observing trends and significant differences in victimisation over time is difficult because, when observing the disability estimates across cycles, the sampling error is too large. However, the pooled data across cycles 1-5 of the NZCVS (almost 35,000 interviews in total) enables us to understand differences in the experience of victimisation between disabled people, and between disabled and non-disabled people.

  • Disabled people tend to be older on average than non-disabled people. No significant difference in victimisation is found between disabled and non-disabled people (31.9% vs 29.8%) unless age is a controlled factor (40% vs 31%), suggesting that, overall, older people are less likely to be victims of crime.

  • Most of the analyses are not controlled for age so disabled people do not appear as a vulnerable population group in the main report (for example in the distribution of crime sub group analysis, disabled people are not identified).

  • Analyses do not control for the impact of socioeconomic status on victimisation. It would be interesting to investigate whether the higher rates of victimisation experienced by Māori and disabled people in general are both related to deprivation.

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