Women’s Aid defines Domestic Abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.

Domestic Abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse [2]
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

In later life, if someone has been in a relationship for a long time, it can be difficult to recognise that the relationship is abusive. If the older person is being abused by another family member who has caring responsibilities; a son or daughter or even a grandchild it is not easy to report what is happening; the person affected could be fearful of the consequences of speaking out or it could be that the abuse has happened for so long that they accept it “It is how it is”. Sometimes people do not want to disclose for fear of alienation or disbelief within their culture or community, and not wanting to oppose their religious beliefs could prevent someone speaking out about domestic abuse.

We know that domestic abuse happens at any age; and unless there are certain health conditions that affect behaviour, which in turns causes someone to react out of character, it is likely that the abusive behaviour has existed for a longer time.

Often there are additional complications if experiencing domestic abuse in later life. Older people may be affected by health conditions which increase their vulnerabilities. Sometimes, there are caring needs which are met by loved ones, who are responsible for the abuse.  Statistics have only recently changed to include people over the age of 59 in respect to domestic abuse and currently information is not collected over 74 years of age. We know that many women and men over that age experience domestic abuse and that in 22% of domestic homicide cases the victim was over 60. Older people are 46% likely to be killed by a spouse or partner and 44% are killed by an adult child or grandchild. AGE UK’s report “Age No Limit: The Hidden Face of Domestic Abuse” looks into the necessity for all the needs of older people who are victims of domestic abuse to be taken into consideration and to have better training and awareness for professionals who are involved in the lives of older people. The report can be viewed here

Although more women are impacted by domestic abuse, men can be abused too and domestic abuse in later life can occur in same sex relationships.

For older people experiencing domestic abuse, there is help and support available.

  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline available 24/7 0808 2000 247 website can be found here
  • Respect Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327 website can be found here
  • GALOP, the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 999 5428 website can be found here
  • Hourglass, a UK Charity dedicated to ending harm and abuse of older people Helpline number 0808 808 8141 open Monday to Friday 9-5 website can be found here
  • The Silver Line 24/7 confidential helpline 0800 470 8090 offering information and advice to older people, website can be found here
  • AGE UK website can be found here
  • Surviving Economic Abuse has resources and information for people who are experiencing this type of abuse, the website can be found here
  • Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership (BDAP) has local information as well as national information, check out the website for information about domestic abuse and support services; the website can be found here