A unique research project into the highly sensitive problem of domestic violence towards older women is appealing for more volunteers to come forward to share their past or present experience confidentially.
Researchers from The University of Nottingham’s Division of Nursing are looking for around 20 women aged over 59 in the Nottinghamshire area to take part in one-to-one confidential interviews about their experiences. 12 participants have already taken part since the project started last year but more are needed to complete this valuable study aimed at helping those who have experienced abuse and health professionals deal with the problem.
One participant who has already been interviewed, Ann aged 63, told the researchers:
"A lot of older women stay in the abusive partnership, and remain in it, because they don’t know there is any support out there. A lot of women never talk about it. I think it is the 'hiddenness' of it that is the problem actually, and I think that needs to stop. I think we’ve got to give permission to women, to get people to realise that it is very wrong that they have been abused."
Leading the study, Dr Julie McGarry, says: “Older women who suffer domestic abuse are historically a silent section of our society. This research aims to give them a voice and break the taboo surrounding the problem. We are finding older women may be too ashamed to come forward but we can reassure them that our work with them will be completely confidential and they can even contact us anonymously to help our study.”
Domestic abuse is not just about physical violence. Verbal abuse such as belittling, malicious ridicule, shouting and unreasonable demands also have adverse effects on women’s mental health and physical wellbeing. Up to now, there has been little research into the experiences of older women because most domestic violence surveys tend to exclude women over 59. Dr McGarry says:
“The circumstances and experiences of older women who’ve been abused, either physically, emotionally, sexually or financially, are often very different to younger women. Cultural and social factors have to be examined – older women may have been brought up to believe that what happens behind closed doors in the family home is private and they just have to put up with it and suffer in silence.”
The one-year project will use its unique insight into this complex and largely secret phenomenon to create an online learning resource for healthcare professionals. It will give advice and training on how to identify and support older women who they suspect may be suffering abuse, physical or emotional, by their partner. Healthcare professionals such as district nurses are well-placed to spot cases of abuse among their older patients but in the past have lacked the awareness or training to handle the suspicion.
The researchers are working with Age Concern and Women’s Aid with funding from The Burdett Trust for Nurses, an independent charity which supports nursing’s contribution to healthcare.
Any woman aged 59 years or over living in the Nottinghamshire area who has experience of domestic abuse and who is interested in participating in a confidential and private interview is asked to call Dr MGarry in confidence on 01332 347141 Ext:2201.
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