A study to establish the extent of sexual violence experienced by women 55 and over has started in the South West.

The British Crime Survey shows that one in five women experience sexual violence at some point in their life.

Across the region around an estimated 176,000 women over the age of 55 will be a survivor of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse.

Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS), one of the leading specialist support organisations based in the South West, reports that only 8% of the women contacting them are aged 55 to 64 and just 2% of their service users are aged over 65.

Lisa Durston, the project officer leading on the research for SARSAS said; “We recognise that there are a huge number of women affected that need support. With this project we can establish the scale of the issue and most importantly look at how we can ensure that women 55 and over are getting the support they need that works for them.”

Researchers are asking organisations in the region to support as many women as possible to complete a short anonymous survey about their experiences of sexual violence - This will be online from 4th September on the SARSAS website.

Lisa Durston added; “Individuals are welcome to approach us themselves about this research by going to our website and, we want organisations to play an important role in this project by sharing it with as many people as possible.”

This is a ground-breaking project which can create clear and lasting change for women 55 and over. As well as establishing the prevalence of the issue, the project will give women 55 and over the opportunity to develop support services that work for them. The project will also raise awareness and challenge misconceptions around sexual violence and age.