Professionals’ Awareness of Sexual Abuse in Late Life: An Exploratory Survey

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The sexual abuse phenomenon is considered taboo. It has been discussed, to date, mainly in relation to children and young women, with insufficient attention to sexual abuse in a late-life context. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this survey was to explore professionals’ awareness of elder sexual abuse (ESA). DESIGN: The survey was conducted among 161 Jewish and Arab professionals from health care and social services, who worked with older adults in Israel. RESULTS: Of the entire sample, 70 professionals (only 43%) reported encountering at least one to three cases of ESA. A total of 98% of the victims were women, and the primary offender was the spouse (75%). In most cases (70%), the victim reported the abuse, which was mainly sexual assault (64%). All participants (100%) noted taking action. CONCLUSION: This exploratory survey indicates that professionals are partially aware of the existence of and the need to address the ESA phenomenon.

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