Domestic abuse is a large-scale problem in the UK, with an estimated 2.4 million adults aged sixteen to seventy-four years experiencing domestic abuse in the previous year. The extent of this issue is of particular concern as these statistics are likely to be under-reported and therefore not a true reflection of the severity of the issue. According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it is defined ‘as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members.’ However, a key issue to note is that the age limit captured within these figures is seventy-four years of age. This raises the question as to what, if anything, is being done in order to protect our elderly members of society?
In a recent report, Age UK have identified that there appears to be a ‘blind spot’ in this field which does not adequately protect our elderly community. The Office of National Statistics do not collect data on adults over the age of seventy-four. This means that whilst we know older victims and survivors of abuse exist, we do not know the true extent of this problem in society and what results is a true lack of representation with abuse later in life remaining ‘invisible.’
It is notable that in the statistics which are available in the Crime Survey for England and Wales for 2018/19, around 180,000 older women and 98,000 older men aged sixty to seventy-four were victims of domestic abuse in the last year. It is also worth considering that all the current statistics were collected prior to Coronavirus and lockdown; at this stage it remains unclear to what extent this issue may have been exacerbated in the recent months.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is a long-awaited reform to the law within this field, and it is currently going through the final stages of legislative scrutiny in the House of Lords. The Bill aims to introduce nine key pieces of legislation to dramatically reform the current system and provide a greater deal of support and protection for victims. The government has been committed to their aim of creating a society with ‘zero-tolerance’ to domestic abuse, however some agencies feel that the changes which it implements do not go far enough to protect all of the victims.
Age UK propose that a ‘simple change’ to this Bill to ensure that data could be collected to account for victims and survivors of all ages would result in a fairer system for older people. Whilst there is the reluctant acceptance that we cannot stop all instances of abuse, it is widely felt that if further support and resources were available then this would encourage more victims to come forward and increase general awareness and understanding of the subject, as well as ensuring that more cases are reported and more victims receive justice.
The Office for National Statistics did not support raising the age limit for respondents over the age of 74 in their most recent assessment of data collection methods as a result of a lower response rate from the elderly. However, it is concerning that this potentially means that there is a significant number of victims who remain unrepresented.
If further information became available it is hoped that this, together with the new legislation introduced by the Bill, will encourage victims in feeling supported in order to come forward about their experiences. The rising statistics in this area clearly show that a change is needed in order to protect individuals from perpetrators from abuse and hopefully once the Bill is enforced it will be successful in achieving its aim to create a zero-tolerance society to domestic abuse in England and Wales, which would encompass victims of all age groups.
If you have any concerns relating to domestic abuse for either yourself or those around you then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our family team for further advice and support.