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Older women and sexual violence: recognising and supporting survivors

Stacey Scriver (Research Associate, based at Global Women's Studies, School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland)
Elaine Mears (Data and Services Information Manager, based at Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Galway, Ireland)
Ingrid Wallace (Counsellor, based at Rape Crisis Midwest, Limerick, Ireland)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 29 November 2013




The purpose of this paper is to examine demographic details, disclosure and reporting behaviour of older women Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) service users in Ireland.


Statistical analysis of 15 Irish RCC records was carried out, using the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) statistical database. In addition, two illustrative case studies were examined.


Older women were under-represented as RCC service users in Ireland. They were more likely to be disabled, less likely to report an incident of sexual violence and more likely to delay disclosure than younger women. Older women also had poor knowledge about sexual violence and services available to older women survivors.

Research limitations/implications

Data were drawn from RCCs. Therefore, results may not reflect the population of Ireland as a whole. Population-based studies should be carried out to gauge the prevalence and nature of sexual violence among older women and assess reporting and disclosing behaviours.

Practical implications

The paper provides important indications of barriers to accessing RCC services among older women. Health care providers should receive education and training in identifying survivors of sexual violence among older women and providing referral where needed. RCCs should ensure that services are fully accessible to the disabled.


This paper provides unique data about older women service users which will be of value to those working with older women or in the violence against women and health sectors.



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of Rape Crisis Network Ireland in providing access to data and case studies. RCNI also provided funding to support the completion of the report. Funding for the RCNI National Statistics and Database project, from which data used in this article was drawn, is funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) Ireland. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of Rape Crisis Network Ireland or the HSE.


Scriver, S., Mears, E. and Wallace, I. (2013), "Older women and sexual violence: recognising and supporting survivors", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 301-316.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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