Home | Radio+TV | News | Aged care residents face high rates of sexual violence

Aged care residents face high rates of sexual violence

Recent data has shown that more than 500 people living in residential aged care were sexually assaulted in the last three months of 2021.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission said it received 530 reports of unlawful sexual conduct or inappropriate sexual contact from October to December.

The figures show only a minor improvement since the royal commission, which found around 50 sexual assaults occur in a residential aged care facility each week.

Peaks rights group Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) has launched a new project, called Ready to Listen, to assist providers to identify the red flags and better respond to disclosures of sexual assault.

“This is a complex subject – and it’s difficult to talk about – but we can’t ignore it,” said OPAN CEO Craig Gear.

“The first step in preventing sexual assault, as the title of this project suggests, is to start listening to older people who are at risk.

“That means taking their sexual assault disclosures seriously and responding appropriately,
which includes suitable, trauma-informed support for victim-survivors."

A 2019 survey showed that over fifty per cent of aged care workers didn't believe sexual violence had an impact on older victim-survivors.

According to author academic Kate Swaffer, this can be partly attributed to widespread misconceptions that people with dementia won’t remember pain or trauma.

“Some service providers think if someone with dementia is sexually assaulted, they won’t feel
distressed and they won’t remember the sexual assault,” she said.

The first stage of Ready to Listen will focus on the false assumptions around sexual assault in residential aged care, particularly the myth that sexual assault does not have an impact on people living with dementia.

Program coordinator, professor Catherine Barrett, says most providers and authorities will often dismiss disclosures from residents with cognitive impairment.

“We know there are perpetrators who will intentionally target residents who cannot communicate or who will not be believed if they report sexual assault,” Barrett said. 

The Ready To Listen project will be led by OPAN in partnership with the NSW Older Women's Network (OWN) and Celebrate Ageing Ltd.

The campaign is due to begin next week to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June.

If you, or someone you know, is at risk of abuse in residential aged care, call the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600.

For Elder Abuse call 1800ELDERHELP or 1800353374.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *