(Adapted from the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse)
Elder Sexual Abuse can happen to older people of all ages from all walks of life. As people age, they can become invisible to society because of ageism and the attitudes in our communities towards older people. In a world that associates a person's value with beauty and sexuality rather than wisdom and kindness, it can be easy to forget our elders.
Many older people find that staying involved with people and activities, can help them feel seen and valued. However, if there are people at those activities who make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe it can result in them retreating and losing contact with friends or even family. Staying active and involved also helps you stay healthy.
Remember, regardless of a person's age…
They have a right to be treated with respect.
They have a right to be safe.
They have a right to make their own choices
Society's and even a person's own attitudes about ageing can make them more vulnerable to abuse or more likely to behave abusively.
The word "ageism" refers to attitudes and beliefs that cause people to treat older adults as if they were less important or less valued just because they are older. These attitudes are a factor in abusive situations because they allow people to believe it’s acceptable to ignore or control the older person. Ageist attitudes can also prevent people from recognising and responding to the problems of older adults—including signs of abuse or neglect.
"Sexism" is the attitudes and beliefs that lead to people being treated as less important because of their sex or gender. In a country like Australia, which is patriarchal, sexism is directed toward women and gender diverse people. Sexist attitudes and beliefs focus on women and gender diverse people being less important and capable than men, and their value is believed to lie in how beautiful or sexually attractive they are. Sexism is a powerful contributor to sexual abuse and victim-blaming.
When ageism and sexism intersect as women and LGBTIQA+ people get older their risk of experiencing Elder Sexual Abuse increases. It also becomes more difficult for them to speak out, be believed, or even identify their experiences as abuse.
Discriminating against people because of their age and gender is wrong. We have a shared responsibility to challenge discriminatory attitudes wherever we see or hear them—both in ourselves and in other people.