by Bonnie Brandl and Madeline Kasper
Why focus on older victims of sexual abuse?
- The population is aging: Between 2011 and 2030, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day (Pew Research Center, 2010). Some 5.4 million Americans have dementia, and people 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. They also are most vulnerable to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- Sexual abuse in later life is often violence against women: Most older victims are female; however male victims have been reported in almost every study (Burgess et al., 2008; Ramsey-Klawsnik et al., 2008).
- Older victims experience significant trauma: Victims, ranging from age 60 to 100, may experience psychosocial trauma, regardless of whether or not they are able to discuss the sexual assault. Persons with dementia may also experience post-abuse distress symptoms (Burgess et al., 2008; National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2010).
- Many older sexual abuse victims are not receiving help: Social stigma may prevent older individuals from discussing sexual activities or reporting sexual violence, especially if the perpetrator is a family member (Burgess Clements, 2006; NSVRC, 2010). Older survivors of sexual abuse may also be reluctant to report out of a fear of further harm.
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