ITS NEVER TOO LATE TO GET HELP AND LIVE A LIFE FREE OF VIOLENCE AND/OR ABUSE
Lets look at a few things we know:
Older women are much less likely to report their experience than any other age group
Awareness of the problem is incredibly low both across society and amongst professionals
Research has been carried out in the UK and elsewhere that suggests domestic violence/abuse affects significant numbers of older women
Domestic violence/abuse occurs across all social groups, all communities, at all levels of economic status. Across all religions and faiths, or none, all cultural groups and all ages.
Domestic violence doesn’t just stop when the perpetrator hits a particular birthday. And perpetrators will remain so until they actively change their behaviour.
So as a specialist agency we not only understand that we should be seeing older women approach our services our experience tells us that they do contact us and access help.
But not in the numbers we feel, if we look at demographics, that they should be.
Despite domestic violence/abuse being pulled out of the shadows there is still a lot of silence that we need to overcome as a society. And trying to reach out to older women for some also runs counter to some unhelpful myths that domestic violence/abuse only happens to younger people.
Additionally, there are a number of other factors that contribute to deficit in current knowledge and understanding. In particular barriers to disclosure and the failure of health and social care professionals to recognise domestic violence/abuse as occurring in this age group.
There is also the added layer of complexity due to other issues associated with this age group. Domestic violence/abuse is poorly defined among older women or subsumed under the generic term of elder abuse which homogenises older people rather than recognising individual differences and gender and the root causes of domestic violence/abuse.
What about some of the specific issues facing older women:
Older women likely to be the main carer so huge issues of guilt to deal with
Older women often have specific needs which may be physical, social or cultural
Poverty is much higher for older women which could also be a perceived barrier if she needs to use refuge
Concerns that refuge may not be equipped to deal with complex health issues or mobility
Raising the issue may have devastating effects on the wider family particularly with grown up children or grandchildren
The violence and abuse may in fact be perpetrated by children or grand children
What are we doing?
We are working hard to raise awareness and promote our services in a way they reach older women.
Our RISE service has trained all its Independent Personal Advisers and other front line staff about the issues facing older women experiencing domestic and sexual violence/abuse.
Developing stronger partnerships with third sector organisations who work with older people
And ensuring our services are accessible and tailored to the needs of older women.
A women could have been in an abusive relationship for years or may have found herself in an abusive relationship for the first time as an older women.