Longterm abuse is ‘hidden issue for older women’
‘Older but no safer - it’s never too late’, that’s Women’s Aid ABCLN’s message for older women affected by domestic abuse.
Speaking at ‘Older But No Safer’, an event organised by Women’s Aid ABCLN at Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey, to raise awareness of the issues faced by older women, CEO Rosemary Magill said “Research shows that older women are not represented in domestic abuse services.
“This is largely a hidden issue for older women. It is under-recorded and under-researched.
“Longterm abuse, carried out over decades, may begin with physical violence and in later years mutate into psychological abuse, making it difficult for agencies to identify the abuse and the subsequent negative impact on a woman’s health, including increased vulnerability to poor mental health as a result of long term abuse.
“Misidentifying this violence as ‘elder abuse’ rather than ‘violence against women’ may result in older women not getting the services and interventions they need to be safe. We need to transform a private trouble into a public issue.
“Older women tell us that they may be older but they are no safer, but it is never too late to seek help. We all need to work together to dispel the myth that domestic abuse does not affect older women.
“An increased understanding and awareness of domestic violence can provide much needed protection for older women.”
The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch said: “All forms of abuse against older people must be condemned. It’s so important that older people are able to understand and recognise the various types of abuse, how to report it and most importantly that they feel confident that action will be taken to ensure they are protected from the perpetrator.
“Prior to the suspension of Government I asked the Executive to bring forward legislation to introduce an Adult Safeguarding Bill which will better protect older people from abuse. The longer the delay in introducing this Bill, the longer older people will remain more at risk from abuse.”
PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “When we think of domestic abuse and victims of abusive relationships, we’re less likely to think of older women as being victims because they don’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear of domestic abuse.
“Sadly, domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate and older women are victims too.
“We know that older people are less likely to leave their abusers than younger people for many reasons.
“Sometimes it’s because they have been married, or in a relationship for decades and they don’t feel like they are in position to leave, perhaps for financial reasons. Unfortunately, some victims are living with abuse for decades.
“One victim of domestic violence is one too many and PSNI would encourage anyone who feels they are a victim of domestic abuse to seek help and to know it is never too late to change your situation.”
Women’s Aid ABCLN provides services including refuge and support in the local community, early intervention, prevention, education and awareness raising for women and children who are living with or affected by domestic violence. Services cover Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey.