Until recently I worked in an agency that supplied services to victims of violent and sexual crime, and as a child grew up in a violent household. I have seen firsthand the devastation of abuse on women and the family.
I was curious about the research out there on domestic violence and women over fifty, and even the experts acknowledge it’s painfully lacking.
In this article I wanted to provide insight to this issue and offer resources for those who are in a violent situation, for those of us who know someone who is.
Women over fifty in a domestic violence situation can have greater difficulty as they are navigating many transitions and change. Menopause, retirement, children leaving home, aging parents, financial dependency on their partner, and increased health issues are complex issues. According to a study done in 2019 – For women over fifty, “Prolonged abuse and pivotal social transitions such as children leaving home can lead to feelings of hopelessness, unfulfilled life expectations and profound social isolation.”
In addition, women over fifty may prescribe to different internal beliefs and will quietly “accept” the life situations, as there is a strong held belief to not “airing dirty laundry,” and divorce not an acceptable practice.
The Dollar Dost of Violence in the United States
It’s hard to understand why a woman will stay with her abuser. While we may feel they should just leave, it’s never that simple. Women in violent relationships do fear for their lives and the most dangerous time for women is when they are leaving.
Reasons women regardless of age stay:
- Fear of harm if they leave
- They still love their partner and believe they will change
- Their partner promised to change
- A strong belief that marriage is “for better or worse”
- Thinking the abuse is their fault
- Staying for the children
- Lack of self-confidence
- Fear of isolation or loneliness
- Pressure from family, community, or church
- Lack of means (job, money, transportation) to survive on their own
How can you support someone you know who is in a violent relationship?
- Listen. Sometimes these individuals need someone to just listen without judgement, or advice or shaming. The worst thing you can tell the woman is that she needs to leave. She realizes that, but it’s not as easy as just saying the words.
- Validate. Violence is never the fault of the abused. Saying “I believe you” and “This is not your fault” is a powerful source of comfort and strength.
- Ask how you can help.
- Check your own beliefs about the topic. When we say things like, “I would never let that happen to me,” or ask the question, “Why did she stay so long,” it is victim blaming and victim shaming. You may not realize you are engaging in this behavior, so please be careful what you say, or think about this devastating and often life-threating issue.
- You can best help a survivor by offering options and then letting them decide to move forward. Here are national resources, which can help you find your local resources:
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Sexual Assault Hotline
1.800.656.4673 | www.rainn.org
- National Child Abuse Hotline
1.800.422.4453 | www.childhelp.org
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.7233 | www.ndvh.org
- National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
1.866.331.9474 | www.loveisrespect.org
Say NO MORE
The ninth year of NO MORE week is March 6-12, 2022. NO MORE is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault by increasing awareness, inspiring action, and fueling culture change.
Please check out their web site to see how you can help create awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.