The purpose of this paper is to explore practitioners’ perceptions of the barriers to help-seeking for victim-survivors of domestic abuse aged 60 years and over. Help-seeking as defined by Anderson and Saunders (2003) is not a single act or decision, but a complex and continuous process victims engage in when seeking support.
Fifty qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with statutory practitioners and managers from twenty-one out of twenty-two local authorities in Wales. The research team worked collaboratively to produce a coding scheme which was subjected to a systematic coding exercise using the software package NVivo.
Professionals believed that older people’s ‘interconnectedness’ with family, social embeddedness in the community and ‘meanings of the home’ influenced help-seeking. The research suggests that for older victim-survivors of domestic abuse, discrimination on account of age by practitioners, considerably compounds older people’s experiences of help-seeking, restricting the range, quality and type of support provided. The paper demonstrates a significant shift is required in practice to ensure older people are in a position to make informed choices and their wishes are central in the decision-making process.
Further qualitative research is needed to explore what older people themselves believe are the factors that impact on service engagement.
This study is the first in the United Kingdom to conduct Pan-Wales research on help-seeking behaviours of older people. One of the key findings from the study suggests that connections to the home and social ties strongly influence help-seeking for older victim-survivors of domestic abuse.
Key words: domestic abuse, older people, help-seeking, family, meanings of the home, social networks.