Dewis Choice the Centre for Age Gender and Social Justice, SafeLives, Stonewall and Opening Doors World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022 #WEAAD22
15th June marks the annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, established in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organisation. The day serves to voice opposition to any form of abuse of older people. Elder abuse is a human rights violation and a public health concern. Across the globe, one in six people aged 60 years and over experience some form of abuse in community settings (World Health Organisation, 2011). A large proportion of the abuse is perpetrated by intimate partners, ex-intimate partners and/or adult family members (Manthorpe et al., 2007).
On this day, Dewis Choice, SafeLives, Stonewall and Opening Doors are raising awareness of domestic abuse in later life that is experienced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning people (LGBTQ+). As a group, older LGBTQ+ victims are invisible in the media, research, policy and practice (Wydall et al., 2022).
There is a paucity of data on the prevalence of domestic abuse experienced by LGBTQ+ people, as the sexual orientation and gender identity of older victim-survivors are not consistently recorded. Data that is available from Galop (2019) evidence that, across all age groups, LGBTQ+ people as a group experience domestic abuse at the same rate or higher rates than heterosexual people. However, the true extent of the problem is still largely unknown due to widespread underreporting and under recording. Research from Galop (2019) identified that between 60-80% of domestic abuse cases involving LGBTQ+ people are going underreported (Galop, 2019). According to SafeLives (2018) data, only 2.5% of all survivors accessing domestic abuse services in England and Wales identified as LGBTQ+.
SafeLives spotlight report ‘Free To Be Safe: LGBT+ people experiencing domestic’ (2018) found that, statutory and non-statutory services are missing opportunities to identify LGBT+ victims, survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Additionally, LGBT+ victim-survivors present with higher levels of risk and complex needs by the time they access support, highlighting the need for well-resourced specialist support.
‘Although older LGBTQ+ people experience many of the same types of abusive behaviours as heterosexual, cis-gendered people, they can also experience abuse targeting their sexuality and gender identity. For example, controlling someone by threatening to ‘out’ them, which means revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity family, friends or community without their permission.’ (SafeLives, 2018)
To promote a better understanding of the ‘lived experiences’ of older LGBTQ+ victim-survivors of domestic abuse, Dewis Choice have collaborated with Christian Gordine, an independent director to produce a short film entitled, ‘Do You See Me?’. Utilising co-production, the team worked with 14 older LGBTQ+ victim-survivors to examine their experiences of domestic abuse and the barriers they faced.
‘Do you see me’: https://vimeo.com/696918179
Compared to those who are heterosexual, older LGBTQ+ people are far less likely to have informal support networks. Stonewall (2011) found that older LGBTQ+ people are less likely to have children and more likely to be single and live alone. They are also less likely to have regular contact with their biological family. As a result, older LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be reliant on formal services to meet their care and support needs. However, amongst LGBTQ+ people there is a reluctance to approach generic services through concerns that services would not reflect diversity and would be ill-equipped to respond to their needs (UK Equalities Report, 2016).
Practitioners told the researchers at Dewis Choice that, as a protective strategy, some older people reported ‘going back in the closet’ and hiding their sexuality or gender identity as they feared experiencing hate and discrimination. Greater awareness amongst practitioners is needed to ensure that older LGBTQ+ people feel safe to be themselves and to disclose domestic abuse.
Dewis Choice have worked alongside specialist organisations, including Galop, LGBT Foundation and Opening Doors to produce an additional short film, ‘Hidden Victims’ that provides practical advice and guidance to practitioners. The short film can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUD3xZ5Pya0&t=1s
Alongside the short films, Dewis Choice have produced a free toolkit, that can be accessed on their website: https://dewischoice.org.uk/information-and-advice/resources-3/
Dewis Choice is led by Sarah Wydall, Director of the Centre for Age, Gender and Social Justice, Rebecca Zerk, Deputy Director, and Elize Freeman Policy and Practice Lead.
SafeLives are a UK wide charity, dedicated to ending domestic abuse. SafeLives design and deliver training to professionals across the UK, and last year alone 75,000 adults at risk of serious harm or homicide received dedicated support designed by SafeLives and delivered through multi-agency partners. SafeLives training and resources can be accessed on their website: safelives.org.uk
Stonewall is a leading LGBTQ+ charity, campaigning and lobbying in the UK and around the world to end discrimination and gain equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. Information about Stonewall work and research can be accessed on their website: Stonewall.org.uk
Opening Doors is the largest UK charity providing activities, events, information and support services specifically for LGBTQ+ people aged over 50 years. Opening Doors information, services and training can be accessed on their website: Openingdoorslondon.org
Magić, J. and Kelley, P., 2019. Recognise & Respond: Strengthening advocacy for LGBT+ survivors of domestic abuse. Galop, LGBT+ anti-violence charity, London.
Manthorpe, J., Biggs, S., McCreadie, C., Tinker, A., Hills, A., O’Keefe, M., Doyle, M., Constantine, R., Scholes, S. and Erens, B., 2007. The UK national study of abuse and neglect among older people. Nursing older people, 19(8).
UK Equalities Report, written by Hudson-Sharp, N. and Metcalf, H., 2016. Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence. London: National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
SafeLives. (2016) Free to be safe- LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse, produced with partners Stonewall and Galop. [online] available at: https://safelives.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/Free%20to%20be%20safe%20web.pdf (accessed on 9th June 2022).
Stonewall. (2011). Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual people in later life [online] available at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/resources/lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-people-later-life-2011
Wydall, S., Zerk, R. and Freeman, E. (2022) A good practice guide: Working with older LGBTQ+ victim-survivors of domestic abuse, [online] available at: https://dewischoice.org.uk/information-and-advice/resources-3/ (accessed on 9th June 2022).
World Health Organization. (2011). Elder Abuse, [online] available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse (accessed on 9th June 2022).