No age limit to domestic abuse

When people – those working in professional services included – think about domestic abuse, they often think of it as something that affects younger women.

But research suggests that thousands of older women, including those aged over 65, are affected.

It is probably a result of the fact that older women are less likely to report or seek help that leads to the assumption it is not an issue for this age group.

A report by national domestic abuse charity SafeLives called “Safe Later Lives: Older people and domestic abuse” says research shows older victims of domestic abuse are likely to have lived with the abuse for prolonged periods before getting help.

It says, of the older adults that were visible to services at the time the report was written, a quarter had lived with abuse for more than 20 years.

It is difficult to say why this is the case, but it makes sense to think older people may feel additional pressures to stay with an abusive partner related to the length of time they have experienced the abuse. It is simply harder to walk away from a life they have lived for so long.

They have long-term connections with the home, its contents and the family around it, including pets.

SafeLives makes the valuable point that: “Older victims may have increased fear over the change in long-term family dynamics that could occur as a result of disclosure, and as one practitioner explains, adult children may put pressures on their parent to stay: “why are you doing this? You’ve been with Dad for X amount of years, why are you doing this all of a sudden? Poor Dad”.”

Help the Aged reiterates the point that older victims are less likely to report, saying: “Before the 1970s, a range of cultural and social factors – combined with the fact that domestic violence was not considered a crime – led to many women ‘suffering in silence’. For many women now aged 50 or over, this is still the norm.”

Being reminded that domestic abuse has no age limit should make everyone think twice.

The signs of domestic abuse among older people are exactly the same as those for their younger counterparts.

Family and friends as well as health and social care practitioners should bear this in mind and not automatically assume that injuries, confusion, depression, reluctance to go out with friends or to do anything that they say might “upset” their partners are age-related.

Organisations that provide support and advice to those affected by domestic abuse, including Broxtowe Women’s Project, can and do help women of all ages. If you or a friend want to find out more, please pick up the phone and get in touch. It could put an end to a lifetime of fear and unhappiness.

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