Domestic Abuse in Older People

If someone controls you psychologically, financially, emotionally, sexually or physically, this is NOT ok. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, of any age.

If you, or anyone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, the following organisations can help.

Orkney is leading the way in Scotland on raising awareness of domestic abuse in older people thanks to a local campaign being delivered by Women’s Aid Orkney with support from Orkney Health and Care (OHAC).

The campaign, called “The Time Is Now, It’s Not Too Late”, focuses on people aged over 60 who have experienced or are experiencing abuse.

Women’s Aid Orkney will be delivering three training days with OHAC social care staff in the county at the end of September to enable staff to better recognise the signs of abuse, what to do, along with the effects this can have on men, women and families. Posters will be shared more widely in areas likely to be frequented by older folk.

Domestic Abuse and Neglect in Older People

Like younger people, older people may be subjected to domestic abuse that is physical, sexual, emotional, or economic. Perpetrators will use a range of behaviors to exert power and control. But there are also some important age-related differences that specifically affect victim-survivors as they age.

Older people are just as likely to be abused by an adult child, grandchild, or carer, as they are by a spouse or partner. As everyone ages, their risk increases of becoming a victim of abuse—women, men, and LGBT+ people alike.

Many older people subjected to abuse have a health condition or disability, which may mean they rely on their abuser for care and support.

Examples of Types of Abuse or Neglect:

  • Financial Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Discriminatory Abuse
  • Modern Slavery
  • Organisational Abuse
  • Neglect and Acts of Omission
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Self-neglect

Jayne Smith-Saville, co-ordinator of the Orkney Partnership for Action Against Gender Based Violence and Abuse, recognised there was a gap in awareness and approached Women’s Aid Orkney and OHAC.

She said: “They agreed this is an area lacking in awareness and were keen to be involved so we are pooling our resources and taking a partnership approach.

“Unfortunately, Orkney is not immune to domestic abuse and that includes among older people. Women’s Aid Orkney supported 14 women aged over 60 in 2022-23 – and research states that domestic abuse in older people is very under reported.”

Jayne says the older generation are less likely to report abuse for a number of reasons.

“Older women, in particular, have feelings of shame that may be attached to being a respected or well-known couple in the community. There is still feelings around the stigma of being abused and many have fears of reprisal from friends, family members, neighbours, work colleagues. Many are not aware that it is now against the law and they look upon marriage as being for life. They are afraid to live alone or are financially reliant; perhaps being cared for by an abusive partner or being their partner’s carer. These are just some of the reasons older people stay silent.

“This awareness campaign and training given by Women’s Aid Orkney will educate professionals and social care staff who work with older people to recognise the subtle signs that an older person may be subjected to domestic abuse, and empower them to confidently reach in and ask appropriate, sensitive questions.

“This will also enlighten staff and management to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse among staff members and work colleagues.”

OHAC Chief Officer, Stephen Brown, said: “OHAC works hard to safeguard the most vulnerable in Orkney, and we are committed to ensuring staff receive the most up-to-date training to assist in identifying abuse.

“When approached by Jayne, we quickly recognised the benefit of such a campaign and feel it’s training time well spent by our staff.”

Margaret’s Story

Leaving her home to move in with her daughter and her family was supposed to be the best thing for Margaret. Her son-in-law Tom had always made her a little uneasy, but she adored her daughter and grandchildren.

Sadly, Margaret’s move has only confirmed that her instincts about her son-in-law had been right. Tom is always good to her when her daughter is around, but as soon as others are out of earshot, Tom’s verbal abuse and intimidation begin.

He calls her stupid. He mocks the way she moves or talks. He tells her that she disgusts him and that she had better watch her step or he’ll send her to a home. He threatens that if Margaret breathes a word of what he says to her daughter, he will deny it, take all her money and leave her to the wolves.

Margaret’s daughter is puzzled as to why her mother has become so withdrawn. She refuses to leave her room except for meals. And even then she hardly eats and rarely speaks. Her daughter wonders why her mother would shut down like this in such a loving environment but assumes that she’s just adjusting and will come around. Her husband agrees completely.

For more information or resources, please contact Jayne.smith-saville@womensaidorkney.org.uk.

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