Sexual abuse of older women is a difficult and sensitive topic, but one that must have a light shone on it if it is to be addressed.
Due to ageism and sexism in the Australian culture, older women are largely invisible and the sexual abuse of older women doubly so, according to Di Macleod, founder and director of the Gold Coast Centre against Sexual Violence, who spoke as part of a panel session chaired by broadcaster Virginia Trioli at the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference in February.
Joining Macleod, Dr Catherine Barrett, founder and director of the OPAL Institute, said common themes emerging from the many stories of abuse that women had shared with her were geographical and emotional isolation, which could make women more vulnerable. The fear of homelessness, which prevented some women from leaving abusive relationships, was also a growing issue.
Superintendent Libby Murphy, head of the new Family Violence Command at Victoria Police, explained sexual abuse of older women went largely unreported and was often only uncovered when physical violence or another issue arose. While police have tended to focus on law enforcement, there is now recognition that all relevant services need to work together to keep older women safe.
To that end, the OPAL Institute has just launched The Power Project, which provides Australia’s first central information portal on preventing and responding to sexual abuse of older women, and seeks to support women, service providers and others to understand how they can make a difference.
To find out more about The Power Project visit the website here.
View the session below: