Wales

'More than 30,000' Welsh domestic abuse victims over 60

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Media captionDomestic abuse of the over-60s has been ignored, says Sarah Rochira

More than 30,000 people over 60 in Wales are victims of domestic abuse, the older people's commissioner has said.

Sarah Rochira said more needs to be done to support them.

The Welsh government said it was "committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse".

Ms Rochira said there were unique issues for older people in abusive relationships and the support in place is not always appropriate.

Image caption Sarah Rochira said she has made tackling violence against older people one of her key priorities

"If you have been married for 30, 40 years and the option you are given is going to a refuge or perhaps a care home, I'm not sure if many people would see that as being an acceptable alternative, particularly if they've learnt to live with the abuse," said Ms Rochira.

Domestic abuse of the over-60s has been ignored, she added, and "it is only now, I think, that we are really beginning to understand both the extent and the nature of domestic abuse faced by older people".

Charity Safer Wales, which specialises in tackling the problem, has called for designated refuges for older victims or specific rooms for them in existing women's refuges.

Between April and November, it has had 25 referrals from Cardiff, mostly from the police, GPs and self-referrals.

The charity's Margaret Smith said: "I think back in the day, older women, they tended to put up with the abuse. It was a taboo subject, people didn't talk about it.

"And there weren't places for older women to go and sometimes their grown up children would not support them. They would even blame them for the break-up of the relationship and blame them for the abuse."

Image caption Margaret Smith from Safer Wales said victims were sometimes blamed for abuse

Ms Rochira said the nature of the abuse can be very different for older people.

"We know, for example, that many older people will have been a victim of abuse for a very long time - maybe 10, 20, 30 years," she said.

"There might not be any physical abuse going on anymore because by then they will be victims of cohesive control. So for many of them a look will be enough because they know what will follow."

She also said there could be more than one abuser within a family and experts have said there were cases where the children or the grandchildren were the perpetrators and removing them from the homes is not necessarily the appropriate response.

"We've got some really good research… with Aberystwyth University just starting looking at how we can provide better family support and mediation."

Next year, the Welsh government will launch a national training framework as part of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 and guidance has been developed for frontline staff on how to spot this type of abuse.

The national adviser on tackling domestic violence, Rhian Bowen-Davies, said this would "enable professionals to better recognise and respond" and these developments were "absolutely key" in keeping older people safe.

Ms Rochira said success will not be measure by strategies and policies, but "when people, and for me older people, are not the victims of domestic abuse".

The Welsh government said it was committed to supporting all victims and service provision should be tailored to their needs, which was "reflected clearly" in this year's act.

A spokeswoman added: "In line with the requirements of the act, we have developed a national training framework which addresses all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and introduces, for the first time, a national training standard for public service workers on these issues."

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