Gender-based violence in older people: characteristics and effects

Gender-based violence is behavior committed by men that threatens the safety and well-being of women because it is. Although it can be present at virtually any age, older women will be more vulnerable to this type of violence.

Then we will see what is meant by gender violence in old age, we will present some percentages related to this particularly vulnerable part of the population, and we will refer to the health alterations and vulnerabilities presented by older women victims of violence. Finally, we will mention some procedures and interventions to deal with the situation of gender violence in older women.

    What is gender-based violence in older people?

    The UN defines gender-based violence as: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in possible or actual physical, sexual or psychological harm, including threats, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. whether it occurs in public life or in private life ”.

    That is, any act considered to be gender-based violence attentive to a person’s safety or well-being and which is related to their gender.

    Subjects between 65 and 80 years old, that is to say the population of the elderly or elderly, are considered to be subjects of the third age. It should therefore be borne in mind that this group of individuals is vulnerable, presents more difficulties and shows greater functional and emotional dependence.

    Although the term gender includes both men and women, there are a greater number of women victims of this type of violence in society. In view of these figures, with the greatest impact on women, the delegation of the Spanish government for gender violence declared that it was necessary to study the situation of women over 65 who suffer from gender violence and to prepare resources adapted to them.

    There are different types of violence: physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, emotional violence and economic violence. Gender-based violence has long been ignored, considered normal. It was considered natural for a man to hurt or hurt his wife, as it was considered his property.

      Prevalence of gender-based violence among older women

      The elderly are a group of people who already show more difficulties and dependence due to their age. So, they start from a situation of greater vulnerability and are often not taken care of or rescued effectively.

      The percentage of elderly women victims of gender-based violence is high, with a long evolution over time; that is, they have been suffering for years. This is the affectation that a woman often ignores and does not recognize as having been the victim of an assault. It will be essential to care for and support these women so that they do not feel alone and can face and overcome the situation.

      In 2017, the deaths of 46 women victims of gender violence were recorded in Spain. Of the total victims, 5 of these women were 65 years older, representing 10.9% of the total deaths.

      Likewise, we observe that the percentage of women affected by gender violence, whether physical, sexual, psychological or economic, and whether the aggressor is the current partner or the ex-partner, it is in any case greater in women over 65 than in younger women.

      In the study carried out by the government delegation for gender violence, the group of subjects were women over 65 years of age supported by the ATENPRO service, a telephone service for the care and protection of victims of gender violence. .

      Among the women who participated in the study, 40% had suffered from gender-based violence for 40 years and 27% between 20 and 30 years. We therefore observe how violence occurs continuously over time, increasing this continuity if it is exercised by the husband as the housing is shared.

      It has also been observed that 78% of gender-based violence among these women occurs in the area of ​​marriage, 75% have experienced psychological violence and 56% have sex without their consent.

        The vulnerability of older women

        The elderly are generally a vulnerable group, given their physical and psychological conditions and their need for support. Added to this inherent vulnerability is the high percentage of older people who are victims of violence.

        As a result, older women show more weakness in the face of possible assault, possibly being abused and sexist violence together in the same woman. It should be remembered that abuse and gender-based violence are not the same, as the latter specifically refers to behavior stemming from masculinity.

        Likewise, this vulnerability increases the fact of seeing the possible physical injuries caused by violence as typical of the aging of the woman, minimizing the importance of the couple’s aggressive behaviors (in reference to the stress of being a caregiver) or of normalization and the non-communication of most of the women affected by the situation of violence, since they have lived with the abuser for years and consider the behavior to be normal.

        It is also of concern that specialized resources to care for and assist victims of gender-based violence they do not take into account the differences that may exist in each age group and therefore are not adapted to these variations, presenting limitations to help and solve the problem effectively.

          Physical and emotional state of older women affected by these attacks

          In the group of women who had experienced gender-based violence, 39% considered their state of health to be “normal”, 31% judging it “bad or very bad”. In comparison with the same age group of women in the general population, it was observed that people affected by violence exceed the general population group by 5 points of perception in the assessment of the state of health “bad or very bad”.

          The percentages do not decrease when focusing on the emotional state, as 7 out of 10 affected women refer to anxiety, sadness and anxiety. Specifically, for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, the percentages were 32% and 24%, respectively.

          What is most alarming and disturbing is that 59% of women with these mental disorders do not receive psychological or psychiatric treatment.

            Resources and strategies to combat this type of violence

            To cope with this type of gender-based violence, techniques and strategies similar to those used with victims of other ages are used, but bearing in mind, as we have already pointed out, the difficulties associated with in old age. Older women generally do not or do not have their own economy, they depend on the husband who is often the abuser, and they have nowhere to go if they run away from home.

            Therefore, it is very important that when they make the decision to act in the face of violence, they ask for help, and thus help to decrease their fear of the aggressor and to feel more secure.

            Another intervention that is carried out in the face of a situation of gender violence among older women is advise the victim to move to another location that the abuser does not know and therefore cannot find. But in the case of older women, this performance also leads to more problems, as they usually have their life in a particular place and also cannot afford to move to another safer place. It will therefore be essential to be informal about the shelters and houses where they can go and where they will be accommodated and protected, thus moving away from the abuser.

            In the event that they cannot or do not want to go to a shelter or a foster home, women who need it, who need help coping with psychological disorders, can apply for it through psychosocial care provided by Mental Health Services.

            Another key point for recovery and good adaptation is have the support of family and friends, as well as being able to share the experience and situation with another similar woman who is also a victim of violence. The support groups that women who are going through it can attend will be very useful in a situation of violence and thus be able to feel accompanied, who are not alone and are not the only ones to suffer from this situation.

            Older women also find it more difficult to become themselves again, feeling like before the violent situation, since many times, as we have seen, the violence has been going on for a long time, and therefore they have lost track of what they were before, they don’t remember what they really are.

            In this way, given the difficulties and vulnerability that these women present to the situation of gender violence, it is necessary to support them, help them and accompany them, making them not feel alone in the process and by letting them know everything about the possibilities you have available to you, by protecting them from the abuser and by acknowledging and giving them the importance of the situation they are going through.

            Bibliographical references

            • Spanish Red Cross. (2019) Study on women over 65 who are victims of gender violence. Government delegation for gender violence.
            • Benito, U (2018) Gender-based violence in older people. Editorial Àrea d’Innovació i Desenvolupament, SL
            • Junta of Andalusia. Ministry of Justice and the Interior. (2017) Gender-based violence against older women.
            • United Nations Declaration (1993) on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

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