How safe are older women in Herefordshire?
Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group Initiates Crucial Conversations
Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group (HWEG) has embarked on a series of compelling sessions shedding light on the issue of male violence and abuse faced by women and girls within Herefordshire.
The first event in this series took place on Saturday 2nd September at the Kindle Centre in Hereford. This multi-agency event brought together prominent organisations and welcomed over 50 attendees, who were invited to give their perspective on the safety of older women in Herefordshire.
Barbara Shore, advocate for Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group (HWEG), opened the event with a thought-provoking discussion on the phenomenon of women becoming ‘invisible’ with age. She underlined this with the striking fact: that prior to 2017, the Office for National Statistics, excluded anyone over the age of 59 when compiling the Crime Survey for England and Wales. This exclusion shows the blatant erasure of older women when discussing sexual and domestic abuse. She challenged the myth that sexual assault and rape are solely about sex, stating that they are rooted in power and control. Moreover, she debunked the inaccurate notion that age or non-conformity to society’s ideals of ‘attractiveness’ can offer protection. In fact, other discriminatory factors such as culture, sexuality and disability can often increase vulnerability.
Jocelyn Anderson, CEO of West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC) expanded on this point by discussing intersectionality. She illustrated how different aspects of a person’s identity can determine their experience of discrimination and privilege. She highlighted that in our society youth is prized over age and how the media perpetuates this narrative. She stressed that societal attitudes towards age leave older women more vulnerable. Emphasising that recognising the impact of ageism, sexism and misogyny in society, as well as further research and funding, are essential to increase safety for older women.
Sue Mosley, CEO of Age UK Herefordshire and Localities offered valuable insights into the unique challenges they face, highlighting that economic hardship has worsened for those they support. We learnt that this branch of Age UK is amongst the smallest and most rural, where additional issues such as isolation is more prominent. This is a barrier to accessing support especially if they are experiencing abuse from someone they live with. Sue highlighted further obstacles including, generational attitudes to relationships, dependency on their spouse as the sole driver or financial management. As well as those who still feel a sense of duty to care for abusive partners, all factors that make accessing support more difficult. These factors lead to situations where older women will only reveal the abuse once their partner has passed. In order to break down barriers to support, Age UK works with WMWA running ‘drop in’ sessions to provide support and guidance to those who have, or are, experiencing domestic abuse.
Sue Coleman, CEO of West Mercia Women’s Aid (WMWA) began her presentation with a poignant video named ‘Dear Rose’, portraying the experiences of someone suffering abuse throughout a long marriage. The video highlighted that it is never too late to seek support and that help is available. WMWA are actively addressing this issue by raising awareness of older women experiencing domestic abuse. She explained that the number of women over the age of 55 receiving support in safe accommodation has increased in the past year. People are becoming more aware that domestic abuse can affect those in later life, and they are increasingly seeking support.
The event concluded with an engaging interactive session, during which attendees shared their opinions and posed questions. Some expressed their disappointment in how little progress has been made over the years. Suggestions were put forward on how to increase safety for older women, such as increasing research, data collection, and ultimately funding. All organisations involved expressed their commitment to addressing and highlighting these issues, and ensuring that it is kept at the forefront of discussions within their organisations as well as with external stakeholders.
Joanna Liddle, Chair of End Male Violence Against Women and Girls, Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group, shared her thoughts on the event, saying;
“It was great to see so many people at this event. Four organisations teamed up in a unique partnership to present powerful facts and speak movingly about older women as victims of male sexual violence and abuse. For far too long there’s been social silence over older women’s experiences, as if they don’t happen – but they do. It can happen to any woman at any age. This event, run by the Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group, aimed to raise awareness to help end that silence, and it’s one of a series being run that asks How Safe is Herefordshire for Women and Girls. ”
The next event in this series is “How Safe are Children in Herefordshire from Sexual Abuse by Other Children?” which will take place on Saturday 4th November 2023. 10.00-12.00. Followed by “Relationship and Sex Education in Herefordshire – Keeping Children Safe” on Saturday 3rd February 2024. 10.00-12.00. Venues to be confirmed.
Women’s Equality Group:
Age UK Hereford and Localities:
Unit 10 Northern Lights Business Park, Leominster, HR6 0SW
0333 0066 299
West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC)
Herefordshire: 01432 266 551
Worcestershire: 01905 611 655
West Mercia Women’s Aid
24hr Domestic Abuse Helplines: Herefordshire & Shropshire – 0800 783 1359, Telford & Wrekin – 0800 840 3747, Worcestershire – 0800 980 3331