Elder Sexual Abuse

Elder sexual abuse refers to any unwanted sexual contact with an older adult.

What is it?

Sexual abuse of the elderly can take many forms. They include, 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.


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 occur for the same reasons that it occurs in younger people.  It happens 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 vulnerable. They are unable to communicate that they have been sexually assaulted. This may be a reason they are targeted in the first place.

Conditions That Can Result in Hypersexuality
Another unique aspect of the sexual abuse of elders 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
This occurs in nursing homes and other institutional settings. It can lead to sexual assault by one resident on another since 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
Victims of elder sexual abuse can sustain physical and emotional injuries just like younger victims. These include anxiety, depression, sexually transmitted diseases,  pelvic injuries, and more.

Trauma Can Lead to Decline in Function
Sexual assault in frail older people is probably more likely to causes physical and psychological trauma. It can also lead to 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. We must identify risky people/situations and inquiring to determine consent.



Recognizing that elder sexual assault actually occurs is the first step. This is unfathomable for many people.


Identify high risk individuals—both as victims and perpetrators. Identify high risk situations, such as when many patients with dementia live together.


Sometimes sexual assault in which one or both of the parties has dementia may be simply dismissed as consensual. This may not be the case.


These situations often require psychiatrists or other mental health experts. They will determine whether one or both parties has the mental capacity to consent to sexual activity.