Sexual abuse involves any non-consensual sexual act or activity perpetrated against an older person. Such acts can include rape or attempted rape, sexual assault, involving an older person in making or viewing sexual imagery against their wishes, indecent exposure, inappropriate sexual harassment, sexual teasing, innuendo, or non-consensual masturbation.
Sexual abuse of older people is rarely discussed and this is reflected on our Hourglass helpline where calls pertaining to sexual abuse make up just 2-3% of cases. It is nevertheless a wide-spread reality.
Despite the lack of research into this often-hidden form of abuse, studies suggest that:
- Rape is the most common sexual offence committed against older people.
- Sexual abuse of older people is primarily committed against women.
- Most perpetrators are known to the victim.
- The vast majority of incidents occur in the victim's home, with 20% of cases occurring in residential homes.
What are the signs of sexual abuse?
Bruises around the breasts or genital area.
Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections.
Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.
Difficulty in walking or standing.
Sudden or dramatic changes in behaviour.
Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
- An older person telling you they have been sexually assaulted or raped.
If you suspect sexual abuse:
Make immediate contact with emergency services (999).
Do not wash the older person or their clothing.