Sexual Abuse or Abusive Sexual Contact: forced or unwanted sexual interaction (touching and non-touching acts) of any kind with an older adult. This may include but is not limited to forced or unwanted completed or attempted contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight. It might also include forced or unwanted contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; forced or unwanted penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object; forced or unwanted intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks. These acts also qualify as sexual abuse if they are committed against an incapacitated person who is not competent to give informed approval.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault on an adult includes any behavior of a sexual nature which: is unwanted or occurs without the victim's consent or makes the victim feel uncomfortable or afraid.
This behavior can take various forms including:
· Putting a penis, object or other body part in your vagina or anus, or any contact between mouth and genitals.
· Touching, fondling or kissing or being forced to touch someone
· Being made to look at, or pose for, pornographic photos/videos.
· Being watched while you are made to perform sexual acts.
· Being forced to watch anyone perform sexual acts.
· Unwanted sexual talking or language suggestive of sex.
Myths about older people and sexual assault
· Older people are asexual because sexuality is only experienced in youth
· Older people do not require the same level of privacy and care around sensitive issues
· Older people make up stories, are confused or are demented.
Signs that may indicate that an older person has been sexually assaulted
· Semen stains
· Bruising or trauma of breasts, genitals, thighs or rectal area
· Sexually transmitted infections: Itching, inflammation or infection
· Abdominal pain
· Extreme fear of a person or place or paying an unusual amount of attention to a person or place
· Extreme fear of using the bathroom, fear of medical procedures around the genital area or fear of disrobing
· Sudden increase in destructive behaviors
· Lack of interest in usual activities
· Social isolation and withdrawal
· Inability to concentrate
· Displays of new, inappropriate sexual or aggressive behaviors
· Disturbances of sleeping, eating or bathroom habits
· Indicating that they have a secret
Some useful questions to ask
· “Has anything been bothering you lately?”
· “I’ve noticed a change in ______, can you tell me how/why that has happened?”
· “Is anything making you feel unsafe or uncomfortable?”
Responding to a disclosure
It is important to be aware that the way you respond to a disclosure can have a direct impact on an older person’s ability to cope and recover in the long term.
· Set aside enough time to address their feelings and reaffirm their trust in you Ensure you are in a private location
· Try to ensure the disclosure is directed by the client
· Use open ended questions where possible
· Be aware that older victims may use less direct language and more euphemisms
· Stay calm and contain your emotions to avoid making the victim feel shame or guilt for upsetting you
· Suspend discussion of further action, as this may prevent them from completely disclosing
Some useful responses
· “I believe everything that you have told me”
· “This is not your fault, and no one blames you for what has happened”
· “What can we do to help you feel safe again?”
Sexual elder abuse warning signs
· Bruises around breasts or genitals
· Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
· Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
Signs of sexual abuse of an elder include:
· An unexplained sexually transmitted disease (STD)
· Bruises on the thighs or external genitals
· Bleeding, pain or irritation of the genitals
· Inappropriate relationships between perpetrator and the victim
· Engaging in unusual or aggressive behavior
If you need help
Visit ONE PLACE Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.