Over 100,000 older people in Northern Ireland experience abuse, figures show

Older people, and those who care for them, are being encouraged to reach out for support.
-Credit: (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

New figures today reveal how older people in Northern Ireland experience coercive control/controlling behaviour, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

One research shows that one in five older people in the UK are victims of abuse - that means over 100,000 older people experience abuse in Northern Ireland.

To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day at the weekend, the Domestic and Sexual Abuse (DSA) Helpline and Hourglass Northern Ireland have joined forces to encourage older people, and those who care for them, to reach out for support.

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Joanne Barnes, CEO of Nexus, which hosts the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, said: “Last year only six older people per week (approx. 300 in year) reached out to the DSA Helpline for support, with about half of callers citing experience of coercive control, one quarter sexual abuse and one quarter physical abuse.

“Given that we know an estimated 100k experience abuse, there are scores of thousands of older people in Northern Ireland suffering in silence without the help and support they deserve. No abuse or control is acceptable, even when you are in a long-term relationship.

“It is important to note that the DSA Helpline is anonymous and confidential, we provide advice and guidance for you to consider in your own time, no matter what age you are, when the abuse happened or how long the abuse has been going on. We also provide advice for people who care for older people in a personal or professional capacity.”

Veronica Gray, Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director of Hourglass, added: “Our own research tells us that the abuse and neglect of older people is on the rise. Without specialist services, older people will continue to suffer in silence, hence this unique partnership with the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline.

“Hourglass NI has developed a unique community response approach to build tailored care plans and advocacy services for older victim-survivors and we stand ready to work with those who need us.”

Detective Superintendent Heather Campbell from the PSNI Public Protection Branch, said: “Unfortunately, abuse against older people happens here in Northern Ireland and is often unreported for many reasons. This may be the physical or mental ability of the victim, their dependency on the abuser for care and/or the fear of retaliation from the abuser.

“We recorded 2,522 domestic or sexual abuse crimes against people aged 55 or over in 23/24, representing approximately 10% (1in10) of all domestic and sexual abuse recorded crimes. We hope that raising awareness on spotting the signs will encourage and give people the confidence to report this crime.

“Older people are often scared to speak up in fear of what will happen to them. Therefore, it is important that we are their voice, and we are looking out for older people. We as a police service are committed to preventing, deterring and detecting crimes against older people in our communities.”

Older people who are experiencing abuse should reach out for advice by calling the DSA helpline where experienced call handlers will provide advice and guidance, including signposting to relevant organisations such as Hourglass and provide information on the type of support they offer.

You can call the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline on 0808 802 1414, it is available 24/7 for any individual impacted by domestic or sexual abuse, either directly or indirectly. Support is also available via email at help@dsahelpline.org and online at dsahelpline.org to ‘Live Chat’ with an advisor.

If you are in immediate danger, please call the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 999.

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