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Sexual Abuse of Older Women

Understanding, preventing and responding to sexual abuse of older women.

This page has a wide variety of information, resources and support services on the topic of sexual abuse of older women compiled by Compass.

Understanding, preventing and responding to sexual abuse of older women.

This page has a wide variety of information, resources and support services on the topic of sexual abuse of older women compiled by Compass.

An Uncomfortable Truth: The sexual assault of older women by Dr Catherine Barrett

Underreporting is a major problem with sexual abuse, but the real problem is under listening

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


Discussing how to understand, prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of older women is Dr Catherine Barrett, Yumi Lee, Kerrin Bradfield and moderator Caroline Baum. (See bios below).

2.6x more reports of unlawful sexual contact in residential aged care since 2009

About the participants:

Catherine Barrett

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

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

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

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.

Starting by believing will be a game changer and it will make older women safer, as perpetrators may be less brazen

A Compass Guide

The Sexual Abuse of Older Women: A Compass Guide is a handy PDF with a wide variety of information and links to resources and service providers to help the Australian community understand, prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of older women.


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.

OPAL Institute

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.

Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence

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.

Caxton Legal – Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service (OPALS)

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’s Network NSW

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.

Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA Forum)

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.

Elder Abuse Prevention Unit QLD

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.

Power Project

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.

Prevention is about listening