Much has been written about violence against women, teen dating violence and about elder abuse. The invisibility of the abuse of senior women is what Battered Women’s Support Services seeks to change. Annually, approximately 1,400 senior women reach out to BWSS looking for assistance because of an abusive situation within a current relationship with a husband and/or with an adult child and/or with a caregiver.
“I want young woman to know they don’t have to stay married when they’re being abused” Maryann, 74 years old
Violence against women happens in the context of relationships. This is what makes abuse so very painful and so very dangerous. Through our work and through research we know that abuse consists of behaviours or actions taken with the intent to harm and impact a woman’s sense of safety at home and in the larger community.
Senior women can experience much of the same tactics of power and control along with physical and sexual abuse that we see in all abusive relationships. Women may experience violence for the first time in as seniors, or have been navigating an abusive relationship for decades. Because every woman’s situation is unique to her we seek not to generalize.
“When you’re poor, old and a woman it’s easy to be forgotten.” Eva, 83 years old
Senior women who experience abuse are less likely to seek help.
- Older women are more economically vulnerable than younger women, and they may fear poverty, homelessness, or loss of health care benefits if they report abusive behavior by a spouse or family member.
- If an older woman is frail or dependent on others to provide physical care, she may fear being placed in a nursing home.
- Even more than younger women, older women have been socialized to minimize their own identity, needs, and desires.
- Older women are less likely to seek social or psychological services because many of them were brought up to believe that such help is a sign of weakness and failure.
- Women abused by a spouse may not be willing to view separation or divorce as options because of stigma or an inability to envision life without a long-term spouse. They may believe that battering is an acceptable part of a relationship.
According to an electronic survey commissioned by Atira Women’s Resource Society of over 400 organizations in 2014, it was noted that women rely on anti-violence services throughout their lives. More than 69% of respondents provided support to women in their 70s and 32% provided support to women up to 89 years of age. 90% of those surveyed had provided support to women between the ages of 65 and 69.
Understanding and supporting senior women who are living with violence and abuse brings its own challenges requiring knowledge of both women’s ending violence work and elder abuse.
“I would’ve left years ago if BWSS had been around back then.” Edith, 92 years old
For the past three years the United Way of the Lower Mainland has provided funding for BWSS to develop specialized supports for senior women. To learn more about this work please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help us continue this life saving work by making a donation today. Thank you from all of us at Battered Women’s Support Services