At DV West our primary focus is on safety, offering support and information, crisis and medium-term accommodation and providing resources and options to enable women to make choices for themselves. Staff understand that each woman who takes the step to reach out for assistance has unique and individual needs. Older women have a lifetime of experiences that have led them to where they are today. Staff at DV West will do their best to tailor support to older women that acknowledges and honours these experiences.
Older Women and Domestic Violence
Perhaps you have heard about ‘domestic violence’ and think of it only in terms of the ‘battered wife’. It is true that many women suffer violence and abuse inflicted upon them by their husbands, but domestic violence can occur in all types of personal relationships. The abuser could be a husband or partner, a boyfriend, an in-law, your own adult child, a family member, a care-giver, a friend or someone you once had a close relationship with such as an ex-partner who still bothers, harasses or abuses you.
Sometimes older women may not identify themselves as being abused, thinking that they need to have been physically assaulted to be considered as a victim of domestic violence. Perhaps you feel afraid of what will happen if you talk to someone. You may have been threatened with having contact with your family, grandchildren or other relatives severed if you expose the abuse to anyone or try to leave the violent situation. Perhaps the abuser is financially dependent on you in some way and you feel they will not manage if you discontinue giving them money. It may also be that you feel dependent upon the person who is abusing or controlling you, especially if you are frail or ill. Some older women say that they feel embarrassed to admit that the abuse is happening, especially if they are being abused by their own adult child.
“My daughter has a gambling problem. She comes around every pension day and demands money. It’s the only time I get to see my grandchildren. If I give it to her I don’t have enough money left for my food or prescriptions. If I say no, she starts yelling at me that I’m selfish. I usually give into get her to stop her screaming in front of the children. She’s so angry I’m scared one day she’ll hurt me or the kids.”
Many have said they feel ashamed to admit that they stayed in an abusive relationship for so long or that they feel they are themselves somehow to blame. You may feel that the abuser is not aware of what they are doing and how their behavior makes you feel, particularly if the abuser is an alcoholic, uses drugs or is sick or suffering from an illness themselves. All these factors and many more may contribute to older women being hidden victims.
“After every beating I swore I’d leave and never look back. I didn’t know where to go, so I stayed and took it. He’s getting old, but he’s still violent. I suppose it’s my fault for putting up with it for so long. He has heart problems now. It’s awful to say, but he could die… or he might kill me first… Maybe it’s the only way it will end.”
You are not alone, and there are services available to assist you. REMEMBER – The violence and abuse is NOT YOUR FAULT. Everyone deserves to live their life free from violence and fear. The person who is abusing you is the one who is responsible for their violent, abusive and controlling behaviour.