AGONY aunt Denise Robertson is backing a campaign to help women escape a lifetime of domestic abuse.
The campaign, supported by the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, Wearside Women in Need and Sunderland’s Safeguarding Adults and Children’s Boards, aims to increase awareness that domestic abuse can affect older women and it is never too late for victims to seek help or report long-standing abuse.
“Domestic abuse, whether emotional, physical or financial, has no place in a loving relationship,” said Denise. “I urge women who are suffering at the hands of a controlling partner – perhaps for many years – to decide for themselves that things need not be this way and that enough is enough.
“There is support and help available, please talk to someone and start looking forward to a life without abuse.”
Chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership and deputy leader of Sunderland City Council Coun Harry Trueman added: “This is a national issue we are trying to address on a local level.
“We need to raise awareness both that domestic abuse is something that can affect older people and that there is a framework of help and support available.
“Many older women are reluctant to come forward to get help or report their suffering, they’ve just come to accept it and think support such as refuges are only there to help younger women.
“There are many obstacles we have to help them overcome such as the economic dependency on their partners, and fear of disrupting their families or losing their homes if they dare to speak out.
“Just as important is the need to promote awareness amongst people’s families, friends and neighbours so they can notice the tell-tale signs of domestic abuse such as stress and injuries.
“We also need to encourage our frontline staff to share any concerns they may have with colleagues, so we can all work together to provide help and advice to those who most need it as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
The campaign aims to increase awareness that domestic abuse affects older women over 55 and encourages those affected to seek help. Abusers may be husbands, partners, and other family members such as grown up children.
Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) director Claire Phillipson said: “Through our involvement in a local domestic homicide review and the pilot of a group-work programme aimed at older victims of domestic abuse, WWIN have become increasingly aware of the number of older women who have endured a lifetime of threats, violence and abuse.
“Many have told us that, as time passed, they felt more rather than less trapped and isolated in their abusive relationships, that they didn’t know who to turn to for help and that they didn’t always feel listened to by those professionals that they did speak to or who they had contact with.
“We want to encourage both older victims and their families to come forward and seek help. We also want to reassure older women that the services available to younger victims are also available to them and that it’s never too late to escape a lifetime of abuse.”
For confidential, independent help and advice if you are a victim of abuse or worried about someone else you think might be a victim, please call 0800 066 5555, or in an emergency 999.
Anyone perpetrating abuse who wants help to change their behaviour can call the free national RESPECT helpline on 0808 802 4040 or visit www.respectphoneline.org.uk