Domestic Violence in Later Life


Domestic violence that occurs later in life can be committed against someone healthy, ailing, or with a disability. A partner, spouse, or companion may perpetrate the abuse. Often, the abusive partner is also the primary caregiver, thereby making the victim even more dependent on the abuser and isolated from others.

For many older victims of domestic violence the abuse may have been going on for years, while for others, the violence may have begun later in life. Lifestyle changes of the victim and/or abuser may be factors that can aggravate domestic violence later in life. Some of these changes include retirement, aging, limited mobility, and illness. The impact of abuse on victims at any age is profound.

Forms of Abuse

  • Controlling behaviors, such as denial of food or medication
  • Denial of access to communication or visitation with loved ones
  • Denial of assistance with bathing or cleaning
  • Emotional abuse, such as humiliation and degradation
  • Forced sexual activity
  • Neglect
  • Physical violence
  • Threats to hurt the victim, their loved ones or pets
  • Verbal abuse, such as cursing and name-calling

Unique Barriers to Disclosing for Older Victims of Domestic Violence

  • Belief that battering is an acceptable part of a relationship
  • Caregiver dilemmas
  • Fear of being institutionalized or displaced from their home
  • Fear of losing benefits and health insurance
  • Fear of loss of independence
  • Feel a stigma attached to asking for help and be unaware of available resources
  • Limited economic options and resources
  • Physically frail or have disabilities
  • Strong religious and cultural beliefs regarding marriage and family loyalty