We systematically reviewed studies of the prevalence of domestic violence. Selected overseas community studies were compared with all Australian prevalence studies found to be published. Twelve-month prevalence estimates of partner abuse in Australia varied from 2.1 per cent to 28.0 per cent, depending mainly on the definition of domestic violence used in each study. Implications of the lack of a precise definition result in varying operationalised definitions of partner abuse, from all types of violence in relationships (including a single minor violent incident), through to only those violent incidents that are classified as a crime. Recommendations for any future prevalence studies in this field include the need to collect frequency data which reflected the fact that partner abuse against women is a complex behavioural phenomenon involving emotional, physical and sexual abuse against a partner, not just simply physical incidents.