"Who would sexually assault an 80-year-old woman?” Barriers to exploring and exposing sexual assault against women in late life.

Author(s): 
Goldblatt, H., Band-Winterstein, T., Lev, S., & Harel, D. (2020).
Source: 
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1 – 25.
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Summary: 

The aim of this article is to explore the barriers that hinder the identification and exposure of the sexual assault of women in their later life.

Expanded Abstract: 

The phenomenon of Sexual Assault against Women in Late Life (SAWLL) has received increasing research attention in recent years. Yet, there is still only scant knowledge on it, compared with research on the sexual assault of younger women. Sexual assault is considered a sensitive topic, generally characterized by a conspiracy of silence. The aim of this article is to explore the barriers that hinder the identification and exposure of sexual assault of older women.

This study posed the research question: How do welfare and health care professionals present the motives and processes that obstruct exploring, exposing, and intervening in cases of SAWLL? Four themes emerged from the data analysis, the data resulting from in-depth interviews with professionals. They included: (a) Leading Negative Emotions, (b) Lack of Language, (c) Implications of Cumulative and Complex Trauma, and (d) Social Exclusion. Women and professionals alike undergo processes involving silence and silencing. These processes construct a “wall” of barriers, requiring professionals’ sensitivity and awareness to deconstruct these barriers in order to improve help for older sexual assault victims.

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