Older women who have suffered, or are suffering from domestic abuse, can get help thanks to new funding Women’s Aid has received.
The charity, which aims to end domestic violence, has launched a campaign highlighting the issue of domestic violence against older women being under reported, after they secured financial support from the Big Lottery Fund, initially for three years.
The new initiative will allow older women to get help via a dedicated phone line to the Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, as well as a 24 hour domestic and sexual violence freephone helpline, which will ensure help for those whose voices are often unheard.
Speaking about the funding, local support worker Lorraine said: “Women’s Aid has always supported women of all ages, races and backgrounds, but the one group that doesn’t come forward in the same numbers as others is older women.
“In 2011, research was carried out by Queen’s University that looked at the over 60’s age group and in the focus groups it was established that older women face more barriers when it comes to asking for help.”
Lorraine and her colleague Jean are hoping this latest campaign will dispel the ‘myths’ that surround the issue of domestic violence.
“There is a myth out there that older women do not experience domestic violence,” Jean commented, “but it is still very much happening.
“We have to bear in mind that it may not always be physical abuse, anyone who experiences mental abuse is also a victim. One in four women is affected by domestic violence at some stage, either now or in the past and we are here to help support them.”
Amongst some of the reasons women may stay quiet about their experiences include traditional family values. “Older women usually have traditional values about the family and the role of the wife and in many cases may feel obligated to stay with an abuser,” Lorraine said.
“Perhaps the abuse has been subtle and women didn’t realise it was happening, for example they may have been isolated from friends and family and now feel they have nobody and so they are unwilling to leave the partner. We want to support anyone who is feeling they may be in any of these situations. There are also people who may be widowed some time ago or are living alone for any other reason who now realise they may have been the victim of abuse. We can help them. If the abuse is historic, we can still provide emotional support.”
If you need help or would like to talk to Women’s Aid, contact the Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid on 028 9066 6049 or call the 24 hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline on 0808 802 1414 (Freephone).