The Chilling Silence – older women and sexual violence
It is a myth that only younger women are raped, sexually assaulted or sexually abused. Women can experience rape and sexual abuse at any time in their life.
We support people of all ages who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their life.
It’s difficult to tell someone about an experience of rape or sexual abuse at any age. We understand that, for a lot of older people, telling someone what happened may be especially difficult for a number of different reasons including embarrassment, feeling ashamed or confused, or not being sure who can help.
You may have experienced something 50 years ago, 5 years ago or 5 days ago. At SARSAS, we are here to listen, believe and support you. It’s never too late to get the support that you deserve.
Sexual violence is a deeply personal trauma and may involve someone you know abusing you. Sexual violence can be perpetrated in many places, including your own home as well as residential, care and nursing home environments. The impact of sexual violence can be devastating.
Research shows that older women are more likely to be a victim-survivor of sexual violence and are greater risk of being raped or sexually abused then men. For this reason, our research has focussed on the needs of older women but our services are open to people of all genders.
The impact of sexual violence on older women
We know that many older women feel shame, embarrassment, humiliation, self-blame and fear about telling others what has happened. In the past, there was little awareness about sexual violence and it was, often, accepted as part of life. Some women will look back at what happened to them and feel it was ‘not serious enough’. Other women who experienced sexual violence as a child or in younger adulthood may think, “It happened years ago; I should be ‘over it by now’”. This is not true. It was serious enough and you have the right to access support for your experience.
If you have experienced rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or unwanted touching, at any time in your life, we are here to listen, believe and support you. Our services are available for people of all ages (13+).
There is lots of useful information in our self-help guide which may help you understand and process your own reactions to your experience.
The Chilling Silence project
Women can experience rape and sexual abuse at any time in their life. It is more common than you may think. 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced rape or sexual abuse and many older women will have experienced sexual violence multiple times throughout their life.
SARSAS was the lead organisation (as part of the South West Rape Crisis Centre Partnership) working on a regional project to raise awareness and build knowledge around the issue of sexual violence against older women. The project was funded by Comic Relief.
In January 2020, the partnership published its findings from research on the needs and experiences of women within the South West, aged 55 and over, who have experienced sexual violence. Our report, The Chilling Silence, highlights local and national findings and makes recommendations on how local police forces, local authorities, local aged care and statutory organisations can help older women victim-survivors in the region.
Links for useful organisations
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What next for people with lived experience when the justice process fails?
I usually enjoy my job as a trauma counsellor for SARSAS – it’s a privilege to participate in clients’ recovery journeys. However, I find supporting clients who have had negative experiences while seeking justice some of the saddest journeys, and the ones most likely to invoke my anger at the injustices within this broken system.