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Listen In: Abuse Hurts At Every Age. UCF’s Bethany Backes Talks Domestic Violence in 50 Plus Women During the Pandemic


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A new study out of UCF paints a picture of the abuse women 50 and up have faced over the past year. More than 40 percent of the women surveyed in the study reported domestic violence, while 17 percent disclosed sexual violence. 

WMFE spoke with UCF professor and lead author on the study Bethany Backes about signs of abuse in older populations. 

Read the full interview below. 

Prof. Backes: Some other signs that domestic violence or some sort of violence in an intimate relationship may be present, especially within older women, is looking as to whether there’s violence between adult children between the person who uses violence, the abusive partner and an adult child. Also, if there is former accounts of child abuse in a family, or if there’s threats or has been past animal abuse, and in terms of accessing people, I think it’s really important that one, you try to get the survivor, the person who you think is being abused, alone. So you can have longer conversations. You want to allow for more time, so you want to pay attention to physical gestures and body language. And sometimes it might take a little bit longer to build rapport with them and get them to trust you. We also need to kind of meet people where they’re at and know that they might not want to leave their home, or have their partner get in trouble. So really, it’s about figuring out what they need at that point in time and trying to facilitate access to those services.

Danielle: You know, maybe some of these women wouldn’t constitute their experiences, even as abuse. So what sort of resources should we have, you know, when we’re starting these conversations?

Prof. Backes: If you think about the movement related to domestic violence, and kind of when you think about people call it the battered women’s movement, it is a pretty young movement. So if you think about it only being about 30 or 40 years old, you know, some of these women, you know, were already married already in relationships at the time of the movement. So they might still be living with kind of what we think what the original stigmas are domestic violence is a family issue, it’s a personal issue. So working with a local community-based advocate, like a domestic violence advocate, such as someone at Harbor House, there’s lots of resources out there to help kind of bystanders, or family members get information about how to better talk to them.

Danielle: What can shelters do to make themselves welcoming for this kind of older demographic of women?

Prof. Backes: You want to make sure spaces are accessible. So there’s a myriad of complex health and chronic disabilities that might be present in this population. So for something like shelters, you want to make sure that spaces are accessible, that there’s large print materials, you might need someone who’s able to administer medication, people might need to have access to a nurse or healthcare provider more regularly.

Danielle: What are the consequences for these women if they if they don’t get help?

Prof. Backes: So I mean, we’re seeing a higher rate of homicide, intimate partner homicide in this in older population, and that’s particularly concerning that we’re seeing just higher rates of intimate partner homicide, homicide suicides in this population. And so that is, of course, a really important thing to consider that these could have very lethal consequences for women in these relationships.

Danielle: You know, if someone’s listening to this, and they don’t have someone to help them and they want to help themselves, what would you recommend the first steps be for them and and who should they reach out to?

Prof. Backes: So I think it’s amazing because the first step is actually realizing this has happened to me. And that’s a hard thing for a lot of people to understand. And the first place I would tell people to, to go to is just to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and that number is 1-800 799-7233. So they have a ton of resources there and can connect people to local resources as well as do some safety planning.


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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter

Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.

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