Support for Older Women - The Chilling Silence Project

It is difficult to tell someone about rape or sexual abuse at any age. At the Women's Centre Cornwall, we understand from the older women we have talked to, that there may be extra barriers which make it harder for them to come forward get the support that they need for these experiences.

It is a myth that only younger women and raped, sexually assaulted or sexually abused. Women can experience rape and sexual abuse at any time in their life. It is more common than you may think. 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced rape or sexual abuse and many older women will have experienced sexual violence multiple times throughout their life.

Sexual violence is a deeply personal trauma and may involve someone you know abusing you.

Sexual violence can be perpetrated in many places, including your own home as well as residential, care and nursing homes environments. The impact of sexual violence can be devastating.

We know that many older women  feel shame, embarrassment, humiliation, self-blame and fear about telling others what has happened. In the past, awareness about sexual violence was limited and, often, accepted as part of life. Some women will look back at what happened to them and feel it was ‘not serious enough’. Other women who experienced sexual violence as a child or in younger adulthood may think, “It happened years ago; I should be ‘over it by now’”. This is not true. It was serious enough and you have the right to access support for your experience.

Information for Older Women 

You can access a guide which provides information for older women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse. Access it here. 

If you have experienced rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or unwanted touching, at any time in your life, we are here to listen, believe and support you.

Sexual Violence and Older Women: A Guide for Providing Support

We are pleased to launch a new guide that we have developed for people who work with or support older women who have experienced rape or sexual abuse at any time in their life.

The guide is based on the findings of our research project looking at the needs and experiences of women over 55, across the South West of England, who have experienced sexual violence and includes information about:

The guide includes information on:

  • Trauma, older women and the impact of sexual violence
  • How to respond to someone making a disclosure of sexual violence
  • What we know about older women and their experiences of sexual violence

You can download a copy of the guide here.

There is lots of useful information which may help you understand and process your own reactions to your experience. You can access it here.

The Women's Centre Cornwall is part of the South West Rape Crisis Centre Partnership (a collaboration with GRSAC, SARSAS & DRCSAS) working on a project across the region to raise awareness of sexual violence against older women and to bring about change. In January 2020, the partnership published its findings from a survey and research on the needs and experiences of women within the South West, aged 55 and over, who have experienced sexual violence. 

The Chilling Silence: A Briefing Paper on Sexual Violence Against Older Women in the South West of England

Our report, The Chilling Silence, highlights our local and national findings and makes recommendations on how local police forces, local authorities, local aged care and statutory organisations can help affected older women in the region. You can read the report here.

If you would like to get involved in helping develop services for older women, we want to hear from you. 

For further information on the project, awareness campaign, posters and training please contact us.

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Funded by comic Relief 
The guide was produced as part of the South West Rape Crisis Partnership for Women 55+ project funded by Comic Relief.



Our services are available for women of all ages, regardless of when you experienced the abuse. 

You can find more information on the services we offer here.

You can download a copy of the guide here. 

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A big thank you to our main funders

National Lottery Lloyds Children in Need Fundraising regulator European Social Fund Rape Crisis England & Wales Service Standards Comic Relief Garfield Weston Foundation Charles Hayward Foundation