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Domestic abuse and older people: factors influencing help-seeking

Sarah Wydall (Department of Law and Criminology, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)
Rebecca Zerk (Department of Law and Criminology, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 9 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore professionals’ perceptions of the barriers to help-seeking for victim-survivors of domestic abuse aged 60 years and over. Help-seeking as defined by Anderson and Saunders (2003) is not a single act or decision, but a complex and continuous process, victims engage in when seeking support.


A total of 50 qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with statutory practitioners and managers from 21 out of 22 local authorities in Wales. The research team worked collaboratively to produce a coding scheme which was subjected to a systematic coding exercise using the software package NVivo.


Professionals believed that older people’s “interconnectedness” with family, social embeddedness in the community and “meanings of the home” influenced help-seeking. The research suggests that for older victim-survivors of domestic abuse, age discrimination by practitioners, compounds older people’s experiences of help-seeking, restricting the range, quality and type of support provided. The paper demonstrates that a significant shift is required in practice to ensure that older people are in a position to make informed choices and their wishes are central in the decision-making process.

Research limitations/implications

Further qualitative research is needed to explore what older people themselves believe are the factors that impact on statutory service engagement.


This study is the first in the UK to conduct Pan-Wales research on professionals’ views on help-seeking behaviours of older people. One of the key findings from the study is that professionals from the statutory sector feel that connections to the home and social networks strongly influence help-seeking for older victim-survivors of domestic abuse.



The authors would like to thank the participants for their involvement in the Pan-Wales study. The authors would also like to give special thanks to Professor Alan Clarke at Aberystwyth University, Department of Law and Criminology, for his helpful comments and suggestions. The authors also thank to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and recommendations that led to an improvement in the paper.


Wydall, S. and Zerk, R. (2017), "Domestic abuse and older people: factors influencing help-seeking", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 247-260.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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