Sexual assault in aged care tackled with Ready to Listen campaign
8 June 2022 at 10:35 am
The Older Persons Advocacy Network has launched a new campaign to increase awareness of sexual assault in the aged care sector.
An estimated 50 sexual assaults take place every week in residential aged care in Australia.
Most of the people who are assaulted are women, and most have dementia.
Now, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) has launched a campaign to raise awareness and help stamp out the issue once and for all.
Titled Ready to Listen, the campaign aims to address the rights of older people in aged care to be heard, to be believed, and for dementia-related sexual assault cases to be followed through by police, as this is not always the case.
CEO of OPAN Craig Gear explained to Pro Bono News that many police officers say evidence cannot be corroborated due to the presence of dementia, and because of this cases are not always being filed.
It comes as research shows that some aged care staff also incorrectly believe that people with dementia will not remember sexual assault and won’t feel distressed.
“The first step in preventing sexual assault, as the title of this project suggests, is to start listening to older people who are at risk,” Gear said.
“We also need to treat older people, especially those with dementia and cognitive impairment, with the dignity and respect they deserve. That means taking their sexual assault disclosures seriously and responding appropriately, which includes suitable, trauma-informed support for victim-survivors.”
OPAN is focused on educating family members and staff as to how to approach the subject – teaching staff about the realities of dementia, and that memory and trauma are still very present, despite an individual with dementia’s inability to not always recall all of the details.
The campaign outlines 10 ways in which residential aged care service providers can improve their responses to – and prevent – sexual assault.
These include providing immediate safety and support, practising open disclosure, providing trauma-informed residential aged care and recognising and reducing resident vulnerability.
The campaign kicks off next Tuesday with a webinar for aged care sector workers and family members of those in aged care.
“In the webinar we will outline the heart of the campaign and that is MAP – myths, facts and practical strategies around sexual abuse and protection in the sector, including the myth around abuse, dementia and memory,” Gear said.
OPAN will also shortly launch an online survey for aged care residents, as well as staff and family members of those in aged care, to contribute to.
Other key work in this space includes a public consultation on the charter of sexual rights for older people, including their right to a consenting romantic relationship.
“It is a very complicated space and a difficult one to manage, but there is work that needs to be done and we need parameters and rules in place to both protect rights, and also ensure safety,” Gear says.
If you, or someone you know, is at risk of abuse in residential aged care, call the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or visit opan.org.au. For Elder Abuse call 1800ELDERHELP or 1800353374.