A new report has shown that violence against women is costing the Australian economy a staggering $21.7 billion a year.

One million Australian women have been victims of physical or sexual violence, emotional abuse or stalking in the last year alone, according to the alarming report prepared by consultancy firm PwC for domestic violence prevention agency Our Watch and VicHealth.

Violence against women is placing a $21.7 billion a year burden on the national economy, according to the report, A high price to pay: The economic case for preventing violence against women. That’s $8 billion more than the last time a similar report was undertaken just six years ago.

Federal and state governments bear more than a third of that cost, with $7.8 million a year spent on the criminal justice system and programs providing health services and social welfare to domestic violence survivors.

Violence against women by a partner, specifically, is estimated to cost $12.6 billion a year.

The report claims that women who experience physical or sexual violence or emotional abuse by a partner will each incur an average cost of about $27,000.

“Putting a dollar number on a problem that is about the wellbeing and safety of human beings may seem a bit impersonal, but it’s important we continue to shine the spotlight on the shocking size of the domestic violence problem in Australia and its many social, economic and fiscal impacts,” said PwC partner van Smeerdijk.

If you think $21.7 billion is a lot of money, then wait for it — if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, the report estimates that costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a thirty year period from 2014-15 to 2044-45.

“Prevention of violence against women is an issue whose time has well and truly come,” said van Smeerdijk.

“Like many in the community, we are deeply saddened by the statistics and personal stories of violence against women. This is not just an issue for the community. It is a workplace issue and employers also have a role to play. Our report shows the magnitude of the problem, and it also shows the major benefits from investing in primary prevention. This investment will not only quickly pay for itself, but more importantly, it will transform women’s lives.”

Our Watch director of policy and evaluation, Dr Lara Fergus, said the report points to a costly gender inequality in Australia.

“Although there is no single cause of violence against women, substantial evidence indicates that higher levels of violence against women are consistently associated with lower levels of gender equality in both public life and personal relationships,” said Dr Fergus.

“For example, one recent major study found higher gender inequality predicted higher levels of intimate partner violence across 44 countries.

“The new cost estimate of over $20 billion per year is staggering. In addition to economic costs, we must also remember the significant emotional and social costs of violence against women and their children. In estimating the benefits of investing in prevention, we note that this investment should not come at the cost of investing in response services. Increased and sustained investment to end violence against women and their children in Australia is required right across the spectrum from primary prevention to emergency response.”

Jerril Rechter, CEO of VicHealth, said the report emphasises the need to take action to address the gender imbalance.

“The intrinsic link between gender inequality and violence against women is now well understood and primary prevention offers a way to address them together,” said Rechter.

“Prevention activities in a range of places including schools, workplaces and sporting organisations are essential in addressing the stereotypes and gender imbalances deeply embedded in our culture. This report shows that the benefits of improving equality between women and men will be felt by everyone in our community, not just victims, into the future.

“Significant and ongoing investment in prevention is required if we want to see a reduction in the shocking statistics.”

The report recommends investing in prevention. The benefits of community mobilisation to reduce the prevalence of violence against women would range from $35.6 million to $71.1 million over a lifetime, according to the report’s estimates, while the benefits of individual and direct participation programs would range from $2.2 billion to $3.6 billion over a lifetime.

The Federal Government recently announced a domestic violence package that will fund an expansion of 1800RESPECT, the national counselling and information service. 1800RESPECT has just release a Frontline Workers Toolkit to help anyone who works with women recognise the signs of sexual assault, domestic or family violence and equip them with the skills to respond.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.