Not the Venusby Dom
I also cannot begin to understand why men would sexually assault someone living with dementia. Aged care workers are not valued or paid much, and the disregard our society has for them may flow into disregard for their patients. Maybe they justify sexual assault of older women by saying the older woman’s families don’t care. For the person living with dementia in residential aged care, everything that gives them protection is stripped away. For the worker it as well. Neither are valued.
When a guy I was with tried to have sex with me, eventually I screamed. Another man at the party came in and I told him I wanted the man trying to have sex with me to stop because I was a virgin. So, his friend took me down the back of the garden, checked me and because he saw that I was a virgin, he let me go. Otherwise, I believe he would have attempted to have sex with me.
But society has also stayed the same. Police, judges, juries still believe men’s stories more so than women’s, in sexual assault and family violence cases. However, more research on these injustices, more education and activism around them, and more people talking about sexual assault in society today helps to make more people aware that it does happen, even to older women.
Back in the early 1970s, I didn’t have a sense of inequality. I didn’t have that language. Also, I had sexual urges, and I wanted to be seen by young men as sexually attractive. All these contradictory emotions made it impossible for me to discern what I really wanted from sexual encounters, let alone articulate it. Also, I had only one orgasm before I got married, at the end of my four year university studies, so the idea of enjoying sex wasn’t part of the equation.
Older women also write of being socially invisible. But that has rarely happened to me. For example, most of the time young people serving me are courteous; perhaps they have a fair idea of who will give them a tip! I haven’t experienced the discrimination Germaine Greer writes about.
When you are no longer contributing productively and no longer independent, when you couple ageing with dependence, that’s the challenge. Our individualist society celebrates people looking after themselves and being self-sufficient. As you lose that, and you rely on others, you can lose belief in yourself, and lose who you were.
My mother initially found it very difficult to ask us for what she wanted, to become increasingly dependent on the caprices of her two daughters (her son never figured as having an obligation of care). That dependence was not what she wanted in life. We did work this out, but both my mother and her daughters had to discuss the changed situation and how it would work best for us, with the daughters having more say in what their ‘best’ was than our mother had in her ‘best’.
We know that people with dementia are incredibly vulnerable in aged care. From what we know, older women are even more vulnerable. The stats concerning sexual assault and other abuse don’t really surprise me.
Until this interview, I hadn’t considered the issue of wives of men with dementia being sexually assaulted by their husbands. I imagine it would be very difficult for women to talk about it. Perhaps they would talk to someone who could give them a strategy. I think loyalty is a complicating factor in the situation.
I would say, though, that for many older women dealing with a partner with dementia, it is not so much loyalty, which is about emotional connection, as wifely duty, what you are trained to do as a wife, that motivates their care. Older women will look after a husband who is sexually assaulting her because that is her wifely duty, that is what she was brought up to be and do.
Older women with dementia can’t give consent to sex. In care we cannot know if they are being sexually assaulted unless it is filmed or observed by someone else. Given these difficulties, and the relationship of fiduciary duty, no service provider should have sex with older women in their care.
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The #ReadyToListen project has developed a suite of resources for aged care providers as well as aged care workers.