Domestic violence can happen to anyone at any age. Older women – just as younger women – experience domestic violence in the form of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse from their partners and other family members, and the dynamics of power and control are the same.

One in four Australian women who have experienced a recent incident of physical violence are aged 45 and older, and older women are now entering homeless services in greater numbers than older men.

And a 2004 British report, Older Women and Domestic Violence, found that women aged over 60 who are victims of domestic violence suffer in silence because professionals and policy-makers ignore the problem. The report identified a common misperception that, “it can’t be that bad or she would have left years ago.”

We know that older women tend not to seek help at the same rate as younger women. Often they are invisible to domestic violence service providers.

Older women who are abused experience the same challenges as younger women, but they face additional ones, too. These may include:

  • having married during a time when domestic abuse was considered a ‘private matter’
  • having married during a time when a marriage commitment was unquestioningly lifelong
  • feeling afraid to live alone after being with someone for many years
  • having lived with abuse for many years, which may have added to feelings of isolation, poor self esteem, lack of career or independent income
  • not knowing who to ask for help
  • being dependent on their partner for care
  • feeling a duty to take care of an ageing partner
  • not knowing a lot about risks of sexually feeling a duty to take care of an ageing partner
  • transmitted infections (STIs)
  • having less of a support network, such as when friends retire and move away, or pass on.Women’s Refuge will provide advice and support to any woman, no matter your age, even if it means putting you in touch with more appropriate services. We work closely with Age Concern, which has provided the story below of a real-life scenario of abuse of an older woman.