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Older women and domestic abuse: through a glass darkly

Milne, Alisoun (2023) Older women and domestic abuse: through a glass darkly. The Journal of Adult Protection, . ISSN 1466-8203. E-ISSN 2042-8669. (doi:10.1108/JAP-10-2022-0022) (KAR id:100668)

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Purpose: This paper aims to offer a profile of domestic abuse of older women and its impact on their health and well-being; explore some of the conceptual tensions that exist in this field; and discuss current policy and practice responses to this group of victim-survivors.

Design/Methodology/Approach: It is a review paper drawing on material from a range of sources; it has policy, practice and research implications.

Findings: Although there is growing recognition that older women are victims of domestic abuse, it tends to be regarded as a “younger women’s issue” and to be subsumed under the umbrella of elder abuse. This not only removes the gendered element, but it also uncouples it from the lifecourse where, for many, its roots lie. It also tends to foreground “old age” as the primary dimension of risk. There is a tension between the justice-oriented approach of the domestic abuse system and the welfarist approach that imbues the safeguarding system. There is a need for integration between the two systems. Also, for the health and care system to be more alert to the needs of older women at risk, we need to achieve a more effective balance between protection and justice, accord a greater level of agency to older victim-survivors and ensure they have access to domestic abuse law, policy and appropriate support services.

Research Limitations/Implications: More research is needed with older victim-survivors: listening to their lived experiences, coping strategies and pathways out of abuse. The issue also needs to be more visible.

Practical Implications: Developing appropriate domestic abuse services for older women is critical. Practice lessons can be learnt too: especially greater integration of the safeguarding system with the domestic abuse system. Training is needed too for frontline health and social care staff about the distinctive nature of domestic abuse of older women.

Social Implications: Domestic abuse of older women needs to be spoken about and made more visible in society and inside services, including older people’s third sector services.

Originality/Value: This paper adopts a critical lens and makes a number of new arguments.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/JAP-10-2022-0022
Additional information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact
Uncontrolled keywords: Safeguarding; Older women; Domestic abuse; Justice and Rights; Survivors; Structural age discrimination
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Milly Massoura
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2023 12:21 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 13:13 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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