Sexual violence is an already complex issue to address but it even gets even more intricate when it happens to older adults. Several concepts and factors come into play that poses challenges for older adult survivors of sexual violence to disclose their experience to others, report to law enforcement, and ultimately receive the justice they deserve for being violated.
The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence once again leads this educational piece to raise awareness on sexual violence in older adults with LaShae Brown, one of their Sexual Violence Response Coordinators, as the resource speaker. LaShae is passionate about serving the community by advocating for survivors of violence and other marginalized segments of society.
This session’s discussion includes:
- An example profile of an older adult and how the experiences and events they’ve witnessed shape their consciousness and the importance of taking these into account when interacting with this population.
- What intersectionality is, the various identities that make up an individual, the privileges and oppressions that come with these, and how responders must respond to individuals’ needs with these in mind.
- The broad concept of sexual violence and the specific acts that fall under this umbrella term.
- The lack of information about sexual violence on older adults that result in a limited understanding of the scope of the issue due to:
- Lack of awareness and assumptions on this segment of the population
- Inadequate funding for research and prevention efforts related to sexual violence in older adults.
- Inconsistencies in the definition of elder sexual abuse.
- Understanding ageism by looking into the power dynamics at play and how it is perpetuated in society and even unintentionally in professions that ought to be addressing this.
- The abuse perpetrated on older adults and other vulnerable populations, the reasons why they’re targeted, and who the usual perpetrators are.
- The skewed understanding of gender roles, sex, and consent that instilled rape culture into society and how it manifested through the years.
- How rape myths and victim-blaming harm survivors by discouraging disclosing and reporting, blaming victims and not believing them, and with perpetrators not made accountable and justice not being served.
- How rape culture and victim-blaming exacerbate the problem as society unconsciously normalizes and perpetuates it.
- A run-through of the factors that hinder an older adult who experienced sexual violence from reporting.
- Language barriers as the survivor defines and understands specific concepts/terms differently.
- Ageism where resources are not catered to and/or ignore the experiences of older adults.
- Lack of legal knowledge that their experiences are actually types of sexual violence and lack of awareness of available resources.
- Shame in asking for help and reporting their experience because of the culture they were brought up in, their understanding of gender roles, taboo surrounding sex, and stigma.
- Not being believed in a society that assumes that they aren’t likely to be victims of sexual violence.
- The importance of believing, supporting, and advocating for older adult survivors of sexual violence, ensuring that barriers are overcome, and they’re able to access appropriate resources easily.
Points LaShae clarified during the Q&A are on:
- Innovative outreach methods connecting the older adult population with resources.
- Awareness efforts conducted in retirement homes and senior centers.
- The profile of the perpetrators.
- Creative ways to correct victim-blaming within peers.
- Making resources easily accessible for victims when it is their caregivers who are perpetrators.
- Leveraging inter-agency collaborations and the no-wrong door approach to effectively address older adult sexual violence particularly for smaller communities.
- Statistics of sexual violence incident in adult care facilities.
- Initiating conversations surrounding this complicated topic.
Resources and Handouts
Webinars in this Series
- July 29: Part 1 – Across the Lifespan: Serving Older Survivors of Sexual Assault (this webinar)
- Sept 29: Part 2 – Across the Lifespan: Serving Older Survivors of Sexual Assault
- “I gained a new perspective and plenty to think about……thank you.” — AnnMarie
- “In some Central American cultures, sexual violence is part of everyday life and as an SA advocate for the Hispanic community, I will keep in mind everything that was presented today in this Webinar. Our elders deserve to receive the same services and not feel alone and abandoned when they have been victims of sexual assault.” — Arely
- “Excellent presentation! This is my first time getting such valuable information on this population, especially on such topics as Older Survivors of Sexual Violence.” — Beverley
- “LaShae had such great enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge. I loved the historical perspective and the suggestions for getting to outreach vs dropping- in with assault info. — Beth
- “Sexual assault is my passion and I currently work in Adult Protection so this was very beneficial.” — Carly
- “Ms. LaShae Brown effectively described Rape Culture and related it to older citizens.” — Deirdre
- “Ms. Brown introduced me to the very real importance of considering the historical and cultural contexts of older survivors, in that their life experiences, as well as the values or education they may have about relationships and sexual violence, are highly dependent of their age and the decades that they grew up in. “– Jodi
- “It was a great webinar. very touchy subject, but the knowledge is important so we know how to help the elderly. Any topics related to the elderly is welcomed. i look forward to part 2 of the webinar. Thank you.” — JILL
- “OMG, everything. We need more webinars are about this topic. I appreciated the YouTube video about elderly Sexual Assault. Thank you.” — Melissa
- “The webinar provided great information and displayed compassion towards this population. I was surprised to learn that 16-30 % of older victims report to law enforcement.” — Myda
This webinar was pre-approved for 1 CEU credit by the National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP)® and the DoD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program (D-SAACP). Founded in 1975, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) is the oldest national victim assistance organization of its type in the United States and is the recognized leader in victim advocacy, education and credentialing. To learn more about NOVA, visit trynova.org.