Preventing Sexual Assault in Aged Care

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Preventing Sexual Assault in Aged Care
Author: Author Kate Swaffer
Published: Thursday, October 10th 2022

The Sexual Assault and Dementia Special Interest Group

Dementia Alliance International is pleased to be an organisational partner for the Sexual Assault and Dementia Special Interest Group a project that has been set up following on from the OPAN #ReadyToListen project.

In Australia, there are around 50 sexual assaults in residential aged care facilities each week. Most victims/survivors are women living with dementia; and most perpetrators are males – including staff, other residents, and visitors. People living with dementia are also sexually assaulted in their own homes by intimate partners, other family members and service providers. The lack of action to prevent sexual assault has been enabled by myths that older victims/survivors with dementia are not harmed or won't remember. However, in one residential aged care study, in 58% of sexual assaults staff reported there was no harm to the resident.

Because a person living with dementia can’t always describe a sexual assault or the impacts on them, that doesn’t mean they have not been harmed.

In 2022, by one of DAI’s co-founders Kate Swaffer approached the #ReadyToListen project team with the suggestion to establish the #ReadyToListen Sexual Assault and Dementia Special Interest Group (SAD-SIG).

This is because Kate believed we needed a better process of listening to the voices of people living with dementia, to help make sure the project assists everyone to better recognise sexual assault, and to prevent it. The project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and is led by the Older Person's Advocacy Network, in partnership with Celebrate Ageing Ltd, Dementia Alliance International, and the Older Women's Network, New South Wales. For more project information go to the #ReadyToListen webpage at: https://opan.org.au/support/support-for-professionals/ready-to-listen/

The Aims of the SAD-SiG

The aims of the #ReadyToListen SAD-SIG are to draw on the expertise of people living with dementia to prevent sexual assault of people living with dementia, including:

  1. Increase the efficacy of the #ReadyToListen project in residential aged care, and

  2. Document the experiences and needs of people living with dementia at home, to help build momentum for a #ReadyToListen approach to care at home and in residential aged care.

Membership is open to people in Australia

  • People diagnosed with dementia (primary members)

  • Care partners and family members of people with dementia

The Dementia MAP - Stories Project

We also wish to promote the The Dementia MAP - Stories Project, which documents the views of people living with dementia and their families and care partners about the sexual assault of people living with dementia in aged care and at home.

People living with dementia and their families and care partners are invited to share their views through interviews or through images, film, art etc. We also welcome families and service providers supporting people living with dementia to share their views.

The Stories will inform education programmes to help recognise or prevent sexual assault.

The Stories Project is being conducted for the #ReadyToListen project, and Project is coordinated by a Sexual Assault and Dementia – Special Interest Group led by OPAN and Dementia Alliance International and Chaired by Kate Swaffer.

The Project Coordinator is Dr Catherine Barrett. If you have any concerns or queries, please contact Catherine here: [email protected]

About the #ReadyToListen project

The #ReadyToListen project aims to build the skills and capacity of residential aged care service providers to better respond to – and prevent – sexual assault in residential aged care.

At the heart of the #ReadyToListen project is a MAP (myths, facts, and practical strategies). It outlines 10 ways in which residential aged care service providers can improve their responses to – and prevent – sexual assault.

MAP elements

  1. Understanding sexual assault definitions and prevalence

  2. Determining sexual consent

  3. Assessing the indicators of sexual assault

  4. Identifying the impacts of sexual assault

  5. Complying with reporting requirements

  6. Providing immediate safety and support

  7. Practicing open disclosure

  8. Providing trauma informed aged care services

  9. Recognising and reducing resident vulnerability

  10. Protection, prevention and service improvement.

The aim of these projects is to recognise and prevent sexual assault in residential aged care.

[1] https://opan.org.au/support/support-for-professionals/ready-to-listen/


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