Norma is 86 years old. Since the death of her husband and son in 2002, she had been living independently at home with the support of her daughter and home support services. Norma was diagnosed with dementia in 2010. She was determined to remain living in the family home although she did agree to occasional respite care at a residential aged care facility. One day, on return home from a respite stay, Norma was very distressed. She told her daughter that she had been sexually assaulted by a staff member at the aged care facility. The police and the facility were notified, the complaint was investigated and the perpetrator identified. However, due to the absence of physical evidence, the lack of corroborating witnesses and Norma’s diagnosis of dementia, no further action was recommended or taken by the police or the aged care facility. Following this incident, Norma no longer felt safe at home. In 2011 she moved into permanent care at a local aged care facility where she has been wonderfully looked after by a dedicated team of highly trained staff. Norma’s dementia is worsening and her health is declining but she remains happy, loved and safe.
In seeking to respond to Norma’s situation, her daughter discovered that the sexual assault of older women occurs in a range of settings but remains largely invisible in our community. Relevant services often seem unable to adequately respond. In her life Norma has been a wife, a mother, a gardener and a painter. Her oil painting (above) reminds us that Norma's experience that was the catalyst that prompted the development of this project.
About Norma's Project
Norma's Project was established in December 2011 to prevent the sexual assault of older women in Australia. The project is based at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society at La Trobe University and includes researchers from the National Ageing Research Institute and the McCaughey Centre/Centre for Women’s Health, Gender & Society at the University of Melbourne. The project is also being conducted in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Australia and the Council on the Ageing, Victoria and was funded by the Australian Government, Department of Social Services. Norma's project includes three key stages.
Key to the program's success is the development and engagement of a wide range of community groups, service providers and others to implement strategies for primary prevention. We have established this website to support this engagement. We have also established Norma's Network - a list of organisations and groups that would like to be kept up to date with the Project's progress. If you would like to join Norma's Network please contact us using the information on the contacts page.
Research report released
Today (7/7/14) we released a report on the research with older people, family members and service providers. The report documents, for the first time in Australia, the context of the sexual assault of older women and a framework for primary prevention. Over the next couple of months we will add further documents to the resources section of the website, including resources for primary prevention. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who participated in the interviews or survey.