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Domestic abuse growing problem among older couples

Domestic violence is not just a problem among the middle-aged and younger generations. According to a new census, it is also a growing problem among older couples.

Research undertaken by the domestic abuse charity, Women’s Aid, found that 11.5 per cent of the women killed by a partner or ex-partner were aged 66 or over. This follows a 2016 study by another abuse charity, Safe Lives, which estimated there were around 120,000 women in the 65 plus age group who had suffered some kind of domestic abuse.

A common pattern of this abuse was that it did not begin until a couple had retired and they spent more time together alone. The report also found that while two thirds of those under the age of 60 experiencing domestic abuse of some form left their abuser before seeking help, in the older age group it was less than a quarter.

Additionally, whereas only nine per cent of younger domestic violence victims remained with their abuser while seeking help, for those over the age of 60 it was a third.

The chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, said of the findings: “It is clear that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, yet they are the age group least likely to access support. That’s why we have pioneered our Change that Lasts project, working with frontline professionals in health and social care to help them identify and understand domestic abuse, and feel confident enough to offer support and a helpful response to older survivors.”

Suzanne Jacobs, who is the chief executive of Safe Lives, agreed: “Our research found that older people are much more likely than younger people to be abused by a family member. Because this abuse doesn’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear domestic abuse, older people can often be hidden from services.

She concluded: “Generational attitudes can also mean that, sadly, people can have been living with abuse for decades without ever being able to name it as abuse.”

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