Elder Sexual Abuse
Refers to any unwanted sexual contact with an older adult.
What is Elder Sexual Abuse?
Sexual elder abuse can take many forms and including, but not limited, to sexual intercourse.
Unwanted touching or other sexual activity. Masturbating in front of an older person,
Making suggestive verbal sexual advances that are unwanted or unwelcome.
Capacity to Consent
Sexual activity with an older adult who does not expressly consent or who does not have the capacity to consent.
Why Does Elder Sexual Abuse Occur?
Many cases of elder sexual abuse occur for the same reasons that it occurs in younger people – such as between strangers or acquaintances wherein a sexual predator criminally violates another person, or in an established relationship where one partner forces sexual activity upon another against their will. However, some aspects of elder sexual abuse are unique.
Vulnerable Population is Targeted
Many victims can have dementia or other conditions that render them both vulnerable and unable to communicate that they have been sexually assaulted, which may be a reason they are targeted in the first place.
Conditions That Can Result in Hypersexuality
Another unique aspect of elder sexual abuse are situations in which patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias develop heightened sexual urges because of their disease. In community settings this can be extremely distressing to an older spouse who is trying to care for such a patient.
Patient to Patient Abuse
In nursing homes and other institutional settings, this can lead to sexual assault by one resident on another because many patients with dementia are typically living close together.
We are Working to End Elder Sexual Abuse
From research and policy, to direct services, the team at elderabuse.org is focused on one thing: ending elder abuse.
What Harm Can Sexual Abuse Cause?
This terrible violence has devastating repercussions for older adults.
Physical and Emotional Injuries
Certainly victims of elder sexual abuse can sustain physical and emotional injuries just like younger victims. These include anxiety, depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and pelvic injuries to name just a few.
Trauma Can Lead to Decline in Function
Sexual assault in frail older people is probably more likely to causes physical and psychological trauma, a decline in function, and a decrease in overall well-being.
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What Can Be Done to Stop Elder Sexual Abuse?
Stopping elder sexual abuse requires believing it can happen, identifying risky people/situations and inquiring to determine consent.
Recognize the Unfathomable
Recognizing that elder sexual assault actually occurs is the first step, as it is unfathomable for many people.
Identify High Risk
Identify high risk individuals – both as victims and perpetrators – and high risk situations, such as situations in which many patients with dementia live together.
Don’t Assume Consent
Sometimes sexual assault in which one or both of the parties has dementia may be simply dismissed as consensual (i.e., agreed upon by both parties) and this may not be the case.
These situations often require psychiatrists or other mental health experts to determine whether one or both parties has the mental capacity to consent to sexual activity.