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Preventing sexual assault in aged care

The findings and recommendations of a ‘ground breaking' study on sexual assault against older women will be presented to the aged and community care sector and government for direct action.
Dr Catherine Barrett says sexual abuse against older women is an invisible crime that needs greater public awareness and policy prevention.
Dr Catherine Barrett says sexual abuse against older women is an invisible crime that needs greater public awareness and policy prevention.

The three year La Trobe University study is reportedly the first and most comprehensive of its kind.

Researchers spoke to family members, aged care service providers, police and sexual assault agencies.

The report found:

  • that sexual assault can occur in a range of environments - home, health and aged care settings
  • there is no one type of perpetrator – family, workers, visitors to aged care settings can all commit this crime
  • women who have been sexually assaulted are silenced by shame, fear and a general lack of awareness and responsiveness from all quarters
  • there is a need for education, public policy and other reforms to prevent sexual assaults

Chief investigator, Dr Catherine Barrett, from the University's Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, says it's an invisible crime that needs much greater public awareness and policy prevention.        

“Many people think older women just aren't going to be targets of any kind of sexual assault. This is wrong. This report clearly shows older women are sexually assaulted and that the silence surrounding this crime makes older women vulnerable. We want this research to be used to create prevention strategies and accountability measures to prevent sexual assault,” Dr Barrett said.    

The study is called Norma's Project. ‘Norma’ was 84 years old when she was sexually assaulted by a worker in an aged care facility.

Find out more about Norma’s Project.      

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