Introduction There has been little focus on older women’s experience of sexual abuse despite research showing that: in 2016, 12,700 Australian women aged 55 years and over reported experiencing sexual violence in the last 12 months in 2017-18, there were 547 reports of unlawful sexual contact in residential aged care in Australia.
This can partly be attributed to the misconception that sexual abuse of older women is rare. It is more accurate to say older women rarely report sexual abuse – because we do not listen or give them permission to speak about their sexual abuse. AAG released a policy paper on A Fair Future For Older Women Who Experience Sexual Abuse - What Needs To Be Done at the National Elder Abuse Conference in Brisbane on 22 July 2019. It summarises the proceedings and policy recommendations of the workshop facilitated and led by Dr Catherine Barrett (founder and director of OPAL Institute and AAG’s 2019 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow) that was held in Melbourne on 20 November 2018. AAG’s paper considers better ways to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of older women at home and in residential aged care, through 30 policy recommendations. It is intended to assist the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and Commonwealth, State and Territory governments with the implementation plan for the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians.
Vale Margarita Solis, who passed away on 13 August 2019 at age 97. Margarita was a woman of amazing courage and exceptional resilience. She accepted the many challenges placed in her life's path and made a significant contribution to caring for others, including enduring the blitz bombing of London during WWII; migrating to Australia; working as a theatre sister at Princess Alexander Hospital; caring for her husband after a stroke until his death; moving in with her adult son to care for him after an illness; and subsequently losing her accommodation after that relationship broke down. At the age of 94, Margarita was sexually abused by the acting manager of the seniors rental accommodation she was living in. After months of living in fear, Margarita was helped by Dr Catherine Barrett, Jill Bolen and others to move to a safe and supporting home at Nazareth House. Margarita is the first older woman we know of in Australia who has been prepared to publicly share her story of sexual abuse as an older woman. She was committed to ensuring no other older woman should have to endure a similar assault. In 2017 Margarita worked with Dr Barrett and the OPAL Institute to record her story on film - to create a resource educating service providers and community members. The film was previewed at the Embolden Festival in 2018 and screened at the AAG Pre-Conference Workshop, which led to the development of this policy paper. Margarita was invited to present a keynote paper at the National Elder Abuse Conference in July 2019. Unfortunately, two weeks prior to the event she slipped and fell in the shower, resulting in hospitalisation for a bleed on the brain. However, Margarita still managed to do a filmed introduction and her paper was read out at the conference by Jill Bolen. AAG extends our sincere condolences to Margarita's friends and the many other people whose lives she touched. Margarita's legacy to the prevention of sexual abuse of older women continues on.