This page has a wide variety of information, resources and support services on the topic of sexual abuse of older women.
An Uncomfortable Truth: The sexual assault of older women by Dr Catherine Barrett
The fact that older women are sexually assaulted is an uncomfortable truth; no one wants to believe this happens. It is important to understand that our disbelief and discomfort are significant barriers to appropriate responses and effective prevention. Let me give you an example. Margarita Solis was sexually assaulted in a Seniors’ Rental Service when she was 95 years old. The perpetrator was the Acting Manager of the service and a friend of the Manager. When Margarita reported the sexual assault to the Manager, her immediate reply was “he wouldn’t do that, he’s a family friend.” Perhaps the Manager could not believe that a friend of hers would sexually assault an older woman; but disbelief does not erase the facts... Read More
Watch Dr Catherine Barrett (OPAL Institute) in a webinar, discussing how to understand, prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of older women. Catherine was joined by leading advocates Yumi Lee (Older Women’s Network NSW) and Kerrin Bradfield (Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence). The moderator of the webinar was journalist Caroline Baum.
About the participants:
Dr Catherine Barrett is the Director of the OPAL Institute. Catherine is an advocate for the sexual rights of older people. She recently launched the #InHerShoes research and awareness raising project documenting the experience of older women who have reported sexual assault.
Yumi Lee is the Manager of Older Women's Network NSW and has both a professional and personal interest in women's rights issues. She was active in the women's peace movement where she worked on nuclear disarmament and the impact of armed conflict on women, including the use of rape as a weapon of war. More recently, Yumi worked in Vietnam in an NGO assisting street children and rescuing victims of sex trafficking from China. She is now facilitating the work of OWN on 3 key issues: homelessness of older women; economic security for older women; and violence against older women.
Kerrin Bradfield is the Education & Engagement Coordinator at the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence. She is a highly respected and sought-after Clinical Sexologist and Accredited Sexuality Educator. She is the current Queensland President and National Deputy Chair of the Society of Australian Sexologists and a Member of the World Association of Sexual Health’s Sexual Ethics Committee. Kerrin actively works to create meaningful social change around sexuality, gender, and gender-based violence.
Caroline Baum, Moderator. Caroline is an accomplished journalist, former broadcaster, high-requested moderator, curator and photographer. Caroline is the author of ONLY, a Singular Memoir about her relationship with her parents, whom she became a carer for in their old age.
The following featured organisations have been highlighted by Dr Catherine Barrett, as they are dedicated to tackling sexual abuse of older women. To find other organisations across Australia that also work to end elder abuse visit our Support Directory.
The Older People and Sexuality (OPAL) Institute was launched in 2016 to promote the sexual rights of older people. The Institute develops resources, conducts research, disseminates information, empowers older people and service providers, and advocates for change.
The Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence is a welcoming space for older women who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives. It is a free, confidential support, advocacy and counselling service.
OPALS assist older patients of the Princess Alexandra Hospital. An OPALs lawyer has expertise in elder law including decision-making, personal and financial safeguarding and family agreements. The social worker can, with the consent of the older person refer them to a lawyer and provide support.
Older women suffer from the double jeopardy of both gender-based violence and abuse of older people. Older Women’s Network NSW is a peak body who are recognised and consult at all government levels on such issues as violence and abuse, transport, homelessness, transport, health, housing, community and residential care.
The Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) forum is a peak body of 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault, and the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis line. Together they work to ensure that women, children and men who are victims/survivors of sexual assault have access to comprehensive and timely support to address their needs.
The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit promotes the rights of older people to live free from abuse. It operates Queensland’s Elder Abuse Helpline, which is a first port-of-call for support, referral and information. It provides free assistance to anyone who experiences, witnesses or suspects the abuse of an older person by someone they know and trust.
The aim of the Power Project is to show Australians the power they have to prevent sexual abuse of older women, through listening. Those that listen take the first steps to transforming the lives of older women who are sexually abused.
The featured resources have been curated by Dr Catherine Barrett, as they have been created to raise awareness of, prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of older women. For more information and resources, visit our Resources page.
- A brochure elder sexual abuse produced by the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
- The National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019-2023
- The 'it could be you: female, single, older and homeless' research report by Ludo McFerran.
- 'A fair future for older women who experience sexual abuse' policy paper that summaries the policy recommendations from a workshop led for Dr Catherine Barrett
- Margarita film is a resource developed with the purpose of educating service providers and community members about the transformative power of listening to older women.
- Dr Catherine Barrett and Di MacLeod's slide presentation titled 'Sexual abuse of older women: The role of aged care service providers in preventing this form of Elder Abuse'.
- Norma's Project: A Research Study into the Sexual Assault of Older Women in Australia
Content for parts of this page have been gathered from the following sources: