By Helen Thewlis, Head of Family Law, Ramsdens Solicitors

More than 200,000 people aged between 60 and 74 years old suffered from domestic violence in England and Wales in a single year, recent figures published by Age UK have revealed. Figures released by the charity worryingly highlighted that one in four reports of domestic abuse were made by individuals over 60 during the 12-month period.

Unsurprisingly, the shocking data was met with concern from campaigners when it was released last month. Age UK said it fears for the safety of thousands more people due to the fact that the National Crime Survey does not record data for people over the age of 74, which means many older people are not included in any figures documenting abuse by loved ones or carers.

In 2018-19, Age UK reported 655 enquiries relating to domestic abuse through its advice line, and as a result, is calling for the final version of the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill to include the views and needs of older people.

Before 2017, the crime survey only asked people up to the age of 59 years old if they were experiencing domestic violence. According to the Home Office, this limit was not removed completely because “testing showed the proportion of people [answering the question about abuse] decreased significantly for those aged 75 and over”.

Despite the figures pointing to a wider issue of domestic violence among older people, very little clarity has been given to suggest why this may be. In this blog post, we investigate this matter in more detail.

A reluctance to report abuse

Very often, older victims of domestic violence face significant difficulties when asking for help or when trying to leave an abusive relationship. These difficulties can create significant barriers for those people who are isolated in their communities through language and culture, as well as those who may be reliant on their abuser for money or care.

Geographical location can play an important role in reporting domestic violence as well. Rural women who are enduring domestic abuse were found to be half as likely as those in urban areas to report their suffering, a report from the National Rural Crime Network revealed.

In the first study of its kind, it was revealed that close-knit rural communities can actually facilitate abuse, meaning it can last, on average, 25% longer than in urban areas. In some cases, abusers can move their partners away from urban areas in order to isolate them and make detection less likely.

Recognising the signs

One important factor to consider is that many victims of domestic abuse who are over 60 years old do not realise they are a victim of domestic abuse. Often, they do not recognise the perpetrator’s behaviour is abuse, or they do not feel they can ask for help. Some victims are too reliant on their abuser and they can see no way out and fear the unknown.

Recognising the signs of abuse could prove invaluable for people who are experiencing abuse at the hands of their spouse or partner. We have outlined these below:

  • Making threats or acting out behaviour intended to scare you
  • Forcing or coercing you into doing things that you do not want to do, without listening to your reasons why
  • Deliberate attempts to put you down that could impact your self-esteem, whether you are alone or with other people
  • Taking control of your phone, social media or web history
  • Controlling your finances against your will
  • Violence of any kind

Where to go next

People who have been affected by domestic violence usually find the prospect of speaking out about their experiences extremely daunting. Older people in particular face significant barriers when asking for help, or when trying to leave an abusive relationship. Speaking to a solicitor can offer much-needed support at this difficult time, helping victims to apply to courts for non-molestation injunction orders and occupation orders, which can ensure that those affected are removed from abusive environments and given immediate protection.

Contacting local support groups and organisations can provide another vital lifeline for those individuals who believe they are trapped in an abusive relationship.

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