Unwanted sexual contact, unlawful sexual contact, violence and coercion
There is a myth that old age is a protective factor against sexual assault. This is linked to the belief that older people are asexual or sexually unattractive and the myth that sexual assault is about sexual attraction. These myths need to be challenged. Older women experience sexual assault. Older men experience sexual assault. Older Trans people experience sexual assault. On this page we provide links to research, resources and support services relating to sexual assault.
Australian Law Reform Commission on Elder Abuse
In August 2016 the OPAL Institute developed a submission for the Australian Law Reform Commission on Elder Abuse. The submission focused on the sexual abuse of older women. You can read the submission here
Older women's right to be safe at home and in care
The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria is currently working with the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University on a project funded by the Victorian Women's Benevolent Trust to address the rights of older women to be safe from sexual assault at home and in care. The project involves interviews and an online survey of aged care service providers in Victoria to document their strategies for preventing the sexual assault of older women. This data on 'good practice' will then form the basis of a resource for the education of service providers about real strategies for change. The project team (which includes Catherine Barrett - Director of the OPAL Institute) will then work with key stakeholders in Victoria on the development and implementation of a state wide strategy to prevent sexual assault of older women. If you are (or were) an aged care service provider in Victoria and you are interested in participating in a confidential interview please download the project flyer below.
This small pilot study explored ways of opening up conversations with older women about sexual assault. The pilot was initiated in response to feedback that older women who experience sexual assault by an intimate partner or family member - may not use the term 'sexual assault' to describe their experiences. The pilot opened up conversations about sexual wellbeing and safety that included sexual assault. It highlighted a need to create safe spaces for older women to share their experiences. A body mapping technique used also provided an opportunity to engage older women and produce narratives that are compelling. See report here.
Norma’s Project was a three year project, launched in 2012 to prevent the sexual assault of older women in Australia. This project was the first national project to address primary prevention of the sexual assault of older women. The project researchers conducted interviews and a survey and over 95 people provided information, including 65 stories about the sexual assault of older women. The project was funded by the Australian Department of Social Services and conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute; the University of Melbourne, Alzheimer’s Australia and the Council on the Ageing, Victoria. Click on the link below for a copy of the report.
In Australia there are a range of support services that can assist older people, family members and service providers when an older person has been sexually assaulted. We have listed some of these below and welcome any feedback on services that could be included.
Centre's Against Sexual Assault (CASA) There are a large number of sexual assault services across Australia that provide services to older people who have experienced sexual assault as an older person, or who are dealing with their experience of childhood sexual assault. These services can work with the person who has experienced the assault (including residents in aged care facilities) as well as non offending family members. Many sexual assault services are also provide information, support and education to aged care service providers. Service providers who are concerned about a client can ring their local sexual assault service for a consultation.
The South East Centre Against Sexual Assault has developed a number of resources relating to older people who have experienced sexual assault. You can access them by clicking here
To find out which is your closest CASA call the National Counselling Service: National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service:was established to assist people affected by sexual assault, domestic or family violence to achieve recovery. The organisation provides a professional 24 hour telephone and online, crisis and trauma counselling service to anyone whose life has been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Phone: 1800 737 732 or website: www.1800respect.org.au
Police In most states and territories there are specialist sexual assault squads that deal with crimes of sexual assault. If you need to contact the police about a sexual assault please look for information on your local sexual assault team. Some of the teams include:
Victoria: There are 29 Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT), to find the one closet to you click here
Western Australia: Sex Assault Squad can be contacted by Tel: (08) 9428 1600or visit web by clicking here
New South Wales: See the option to report sexual assault online by clicking here
Sexual assault in aged care The compulsory reporting of assaults is the responsibility of an approved aged care provider under the Aged Care Act. Assaults include 'unlawful sexual contact' which is any sexual contact, without consent that is unlawful under any Commonwealth, State or Territory Law. Approved providers must report to the Department of Health and the police incidents of alleged or suspected reportable assaults within 24 hours of the allegation, or when the approved provider starts to suspect a reportable assault. They are also required to take reasonable measures to ensure staff members report any suspicions or allegations of reportable assaults to the approved provider (or other authorised person), to the police and the Department and to take reasonable measures to protect the identity of any staff member who makes a report and protect them from victimisation. There are limited circumstances to reporting if the assault is perpetrated by a resident with an assessed cognitive impairment or mental impairment and subsequent reports of the same or similar incident have been made.
Compulsory reporting: for more information on compulsory reporting click the link here
The Aged Care Complaints Commission: is independent body that resolves complaints about aged care and provides a free service for anyone to raise their concerns about the quality of care or services being delivered to people receiving aged care services funded by the Australian Government. Phone: 1800 550 553 or see the website by clicking here
Aged Care Advocacy Services The Federal Government funds aged care advocacy agencies in each state and territory to provide free and confidential aged advocacy services to assist consumers of aged care services and other representatives who are acting on behalf of, or in the interests of, the older person:
Australian Capital Territory: ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS). Phone: (02) 6242 5060 or website: www.spirit.net.au/~adacas/
New South Wales: The Aged-care Rights Service (TARS) . Phone: (02) 9281 3600 or website: www.tars.com.au
Victoria: Seniors Rights Victoria is the primary, government-funded destination for older Victorians, their friends and family members seeking information and support relating to elder abuse. Phone: 1300 368 821 or Web site: www.seniorsrights.org.au
Victoria: Elder Rights Advocacy (ERA). Phone: 1800 700 600 or website: www.era.asn.au