SafeLives calls for focus on 'hidden' older victims of domestic abuse this Christmas
Today (Thursday 22nd December) national domestic abuse charity SafeLives publishes ‘Safe Later Lives’, a report which highlights the unique difficulties faced by older people experiencing domestic abuse.
This Christmas, many older people will be living in fear of those who are supposed to love and care for them. Approximately 120,000 over 65s will have suffered abuse in the last year.
Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on all victims and survivors, but intersecting factors such as age, class, ethnicity, sexuality and disability can also affect their experiences. Research studies and awareness raising campaigns often focus on younger people, perpetuating the false assumption that domestic abuse ceases to exist beyond a certain age.
This report provides a focus on this historically ‘hidden’ group, which is essential to tailoring appropriate and effective services for those who need support.
Diana Barran, SafeLives CEO, said: "It's important to recognise that there is no 'typical' victim of domestic abuse – victims and perpetrators can be of any age and background. At this time of year people are rightly concerned with older people dealing with loneliness; we must also remember those who live in fear of the loved ones they depend on."
Of the older adults that are visible to services, 25% have lived with abuse for more than 20 years.
Older people are also more likely to suffer from health problems, reduced mobility or other disabilities. For many older victims of domestic abuse, their perpetrator is also their carer.
No one should live in fear of the person they depend on. Social care services need training to understand the dynamics of abuse in a caring relationship.
Generational attitudes around abuse make it hard to identify.
Older victims are likely to have grown up in a time when it would not have been deemed socially acceptable to discuss matters that occurred behind closed doors. Our Spotlight interviews show that for older women there has been a lack of formal and informal networks of support, which leads to the perception that there is nothing they can do to better their situation – so they remain hidden from services.
Services should target older people with messages that empower them to recognise their situation as abuse, and raise awareness of support available
44% of older victims supported were experiencing abuse from an adult family member, compared to 6% of younger victims.
One of the interviews with practitioners in our podcast series explained that distinct issues can arise related to adult family abuse, for example, “care packages will be set up and then they’ll go home and the adult child will phone up the next week cancelling the care and stopping all those people from coming in, possibly saying the victim doesn’t want that care to happen.”
Not all domestic abuse looks the same. Services working with adults and their older parents must be trained to recognise abuse, and have clear referral pathways.
Older victims are much more likely to still be living with the perpetrator following intervention than those under 60 (32% compared to 9%).
Statistics show that older women are less likely to leave an abusive relationship than younger women, and pressuring them to do so can lead to a sense that victims aren’t being listened to.
Specialist, targeted support works – one survivor said of a specialist service for older women: “their navigation steered me in the right direction legally, professionally and emotionally. They were listeners, they were helpful, they were available and most of all made you feel welcomed and very understood.”
We need to listen to what older victims tell us they need. Support must be specialist and tailored to keep older people safe.
“I think when we were growing up fighting / arguing was seen as part of a relationship and I was not aware that I could get help. Talking to my doctor really opened my eyes and I think older people should be encouraged to talk to their doctors about abuse as they already to talk to their doctor about other things. I think doctors should spend more time talking to their patients.”
– Jane*, domestic abuse survivor, aged 70
Notes to Editors
SafeLives is a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. SafeLives is the largest trainer of domestic abuse professionals in the UK and undertakes bespoke training for social care and healthcare workers. We combine data, research, and insight from services and survivors to find out what really works to make vulnerable people safe and well.
The Safe Later Lives report is part of the SafeLives ‘Spotlight’ series, which will focus on hidden groups of domestic abuse victims throughout 2016 and 2017 and propose recommendations for both practitioners and policy makers.
More resources on older people and domestic abuse can be found on our Spotlight page.
Each year, around 2.1 million people suffer from domestic abuse in England and Wales – 1.4 million women (8.5% of the population) and 700,000 men (4.5% of the population).Crucially, 85% of victims made five attempts on average to get support from professionals in the year before they accessed effective help to stop the abuse.
England and Wales National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 0808 2000 247 http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
0117 403 3220
Ruth Davies, Communications Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jess Asato, Public Affairs Manager: email@example.com, 07939 594 634