Credit: Mario Gómez Hernández / Scopio

Is sexual abuse of older people rampant in Ireland?

The figures in relation to elder abuse, released yesterday by the HSE, are simply astonishing. Here’s Newstalk with a summary:

The health service’s National Safeguarding Office received almost 12,000 ‘concerns’ of abuse of vulnerable people last year.

Some 3,337 related to adults over 65-years-of-age – a 9% increase on the year before.

One third (33%) of those complaints related to psychological abuse, while just over one quarter (26%) related to physical abuse and 21% related to financial abuse.

Some 176 allegations related to sexual abuse.

That works out at more than one allegation of an older person being sexually abused every two days, and nearly ten complaints of abuse of an older person, whether it be psychological, physical, or financial, every single day.

Obviously, it is important to make clear that a complaint of abuse is not evidence that the abuse is necessarily happening – some cases, naturally enough, will be misunderstandings, or reports out of an abundance of caution. But equally, it is fair to say that there’s no smoke without fire.

And there’s a lot of smoke here.

The report does not break down, unfortunately, the locations of the alleged abuse – we don’t know, for example, how much of this reported abuse is taking place in care homes, as opposed to in the family home. Though the Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland group indicated, two weeks ago, that more of it is taking place in the family home than you might think:

Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVII) said that the number of cases involving abuse of older people is rising, as are domestic violence cases in general.

Several elderly victims have been granted protection orders in recent days, records show.

In one case, SDVII said, a victim was violently attacked and slammed against a wall…..

Family law solicitor Sandra McAleer said she has seen a “huge rise” in domestic violence cases across the board, including ones involving elderly parents and their adult children.

Ms McAleer said: “Usually the parents own the family home and the adult children only have an invitation to stay in the property.

“Most applicants need the assistance of the court or gardaí to remove their adult children which can be very stressful for the applicant.”

That does make some sense, unfortunately. Recent years in Ireland have seen a huge explosion – due in part to rising house prices and a shortage of accommodation – in adult children living at home with their parents. In a minority of situations, that seems to be leading to conflict and violence.

But sexual abuse?

That’s much less likely (you would think, intuitively) to be taking place in the family home and much more likely to be taking place in external settings, where an elderly person is even more vulnerable, and dependent on predatory strangers.

These figures deserve a proper investigation by our political leaders, and the authorities in general. We can’t have this, in a civilised society.

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