55+ Safety Net Campaign
Domestic abuse is never acceptable, whatever your age.
In the last few years there has been a sharp increase in the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse by people over 55.
In response to this increase we have launched a countywide campaign to empower victims, 55 and over to seek support through the 55 Plus Safety Net.
This campaign is the first of this in kind in the county and focuses on positive outcomes showing what survivors can do now that they couldn’t before, using real victim stories which can be seen below.
If you need support, please call 55-Plus Safety Net on 01206 500584.
Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial and includes controlling behaviour. Below are some of the victim’s stories, including how they got support and how their lives have been changed. (Names and identities have been changed to protect individuals).
Joan is 81 and lives in south Essex. Joan was married for almost 50 years and even though she thought she was happy, looking back Joan realises the abuse was there from the beginning.
“When we first got married, I will always remember one of our new neighbours approaching me and saying ‘You ought to nip that in the bud now girl, you’ll live to regret it’, now I wish I had listened to her as I have lived to regret it.
Back then it was just the norm, you just put up with it as no one saw it as domestic abuse. But now I see that right from the start he had a temper and was controlling.
It was really only over the last 14 years that the abuse got worse and worse when I realised that it wasn’t just the norm.
The first few years it was verbal and a lot of shouting. I put up with it because I thought ‘anything for a quiet life.’ Most of my days I felt like I was walking on eggshells. This was when family and friends started to notice something wasn’t right too.”
As well as the shouting, Joan’s husband was also controlling. If Joan said she was going out, he would threaten to lock the door so that she couldn’t get back in. He also wouldn’t let her do things that she enjoyed, unless he could be there or join in. Joan was a keen diver and swimmer, but she wasn’t allowed to go for many years.
Because Joan’s husband had some health issues she felt obliged to stay with him. “I married him in sickness and health and I felt that I couldn’t leave him.” Joan said.
In the years that followed the abuse became physical leaving Joan injured and frightened.
Following an attack where Joan was thrown across a room, she bravely sought help by contacting police.
Joan was then referred to a specialist domestic abuse provider who has supported her following her decision to leave her husband and live with family.
When asked what she would say to anyone suffering domestic abuse Joan said: “Don’t carry on suffering like I did, there are lots of people and organisations out there to help you.”
Jeremy is 75 and lives in mid Essex. He was a carer for his wife of 47 years.
“When my wife got ill I became her carer which meant we were together most of the time.
With increased medication my wife began to change quite a lot and became neurotic. With this came daily accusations. She accused me of terrible things when all I did was care for her.
As a carer I became friends with other carers as a support network, and we would sometimes meet as a group for coffee or dinner. My wife started to accuse me of having affairs with the women in the group and would also make me feel guilty for leaving her to see them.
At one point my wife also accused me of wanting to poison her, which was heart-breaking, and left me totally devastated. My whole life was built about caring for my wife.”
Jeremy was worried that he had started to use alcohol as a way to numb his feelings, so sought support via counselling which helped greatly, giving him somewhere to unburden and someone to talk too. “I felt like a weight had been lifted when I finally asked for support.”
When asked what he would say to anyone in a similar position, Jeremy said: “The worse thing to do is stay home and do nothing about it, reach out like I did, talk to somebody. I felt like such a weight had been lifted and it was a massive relief. There is help available.”
Selene is 60 and lives in Essex. Selene suffered years of emotional abuse at the hands of her ex-wife.
They were together for 5 years and within this time Selene began her transition.
“At first, when I decided that I wanted to dress full time as a female my ex-wife seemed supportive and offered to help me go shopping for clothes.
However as time went on she began to belittle me, particularly in front of her family and asked me to explain myself to them to try and humiliate me. She also threatened me with violence. Her family members called me a freak and a weirdo, putting me down.”
Selene left the relationship and made a fresh start in a new location.
Selene said: “Now I can finally be the person I always wanted to be.”
Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of disability, race, gender, age or sexuality.
Linda is 70 and lives in Essex. She met her husband at 19 years of age and doesn’t remember a life without him. She learnt very early on “there were rules to be obeyed” and to “put up and shut up”.
Linda’s husband would appear charismatic and charming to the outside world but behind closed doors he played mind games to control every situation. The bullying behaviour got worse as time went on but once their children left home the abuse became physical.
Linda recalls, “I was scared to go to sleep at night because he would kick me or punch me if I said the wrong thing. He once kicked me so hard out of bed that I broke my hip”.
The abuse escalated and in one incident Linda was hit with a plank of wood and the police were called. Linda realised then that she had to get out of the relationship.
She felt suicidal and recalls “at times I prayed to god, take him or me”. Linda was anxious about life after marriage – where would she go and how would she cope? She was particularly worried about going into a women’s refuge, where she feared she would be sleeping in dormitories.
However Linda said, “it was lovely, and not how I imagined at all”. When asked what she would say to anyone suffering domestic abuse Linda said: “I hid it so well for so many years and now I wonder why.
Don’t put up with what I put up with. I now get to spend money on myself, use my own car to take myself to a weekly craft club and I’ve even booked a singles holiday on an all-inclusive cruise. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these things a year ago.
Life gets better and better every day.”
Lilian is 56 and lives in Essex. Lilian suffered years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her partner but now feels free.
Brian is 71 and lives in Essex. Brian suffered emotional and financial abuse by a family member. Not all domestic abuse is within a couple relationship.
If you need support, call 55-Plus Safety Net on 01206 500584.