(Adapted from the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse)
Identify the myths and misinformation
Recognise the myths about ageing, sexism and the negative attitudes that go with them. Humans are sexual beings until they die and many older people enjoy healthy and active sex lives. It is also important to recognise that there is a lot of mythology about sexual violence too. There is no such thing as 'real rape' or an ideal victim. Anyone can experience sexual violence and Centres Against Sexual Violence are for older women too. Start challenging the myths when you hear them and always Start by Believing if someone discloses they have experienced Elder Sexual Abuse.
Go beyond the stereotypes
A label like "elderly" or "senior" does a poor job of describing a person. These labels do not tell us whether the person is kind or uncaring; healthy or sick; mentally capable, or a reliable or unreliable worker or volunteer. Labels do not tell us about the person’s capacity for friendship or creativity or accomplishment. When we de-personalise older adults by referring to them generically as "the elderly" or "our seniors" we also make them invisible which can create an environment where abuse goes unnoticed.
Learn more about positive ageing
The better informed we are about ageing and what to expect, the better able we are to evaluate and resist many of the inaccurate and negative stereotypes of ageing.
Learn more about ageism, sexism, and discrimination
It is common for older adults to face discrimination in housing, health, and other key services. Older adults are sometimes treated as burdens on services. They may be refused services based on their age or on assumptions about their needs and abilities. Sometimes people excuse poor treatment of older people because they believe they are a burden on the carer who 'just became overwhelmed'.
When ageism, sexism, and discrimination go unchallenged it gets harder to notice Elder Abuse of all kinds but especially Elder Sexual Abuse. It also becomes harder for people to speak up when they have experienced abuse. What might seem like small actions eg. offensive jokes actually set a foundation of excusing more serious behaviours. People assume it is acceptable to act this way because behaviours and actions founded on the same discriminatory beliefs were excused.
Build intergenerational bridges
Elder Sexual Abuse is everybody’s business. If something doesn't seem right or someone you know discloses abuse, Start By Believing.