Prevalence and Nature of Sexual Violence in Older Adults in Europe: A Critical Interpretive Synthesis of Evidence

Authors & affiliation

Anne Nobels, Christophe Vandeviver, Marie Beaulieu, Adina Cismaru Inescu, Laurent Nisen, Nele Van Den Noortgate, Tom Vander Beken, Gilbert Lemmens, Ines Keygnaert


<jats:p>Sexual violence (SV) is an important public health issue with a potential major impact on victims and their peers, offspring and community. However, SV in older adults is under-researched. This paper aims to establish the prevalence and nature of SV in older adults in Europe, link this with existing policies and health care workers′ response to sexual health needs in older age and critically revise the current used frameworks in public health research. We applied a Critical Interpretative Synthesis. After the first phase of purposive sampling we included 14 references. Another 14 references were included after the second phase of theoretical sampling. We ultimately included 16 peer-reviewed articles and 12 documents from the grey literature. 0.0% to 3.1% of older adults in Europe were sexually victimised in the past year. Lifetime prevalence of SV was 6.3%. Information on specific risk factors and assailants committing SV in old age is non-existing. Although in theory policy makers increasingly recognise the importance of sexual health in older age, SV in older adults is not mentioned in policy documents on sexual and reproductive health and rights and ageing. In clinical practice, the sexual health needs of older adults remain often unmet. Knowledge about SV in older adults is still limited. Ongoing research does not fully grasp the complexity of SV in older adults. Greater awareness about this topic could contribute to a revision of current policies and health care practices, leading to more tailored care for older victims of SV.</jats:p>

Publication date:


Staff members:

Ines Keygnaert
Anne Nobels

Link to publication

Open link


2020.04.24.20077990v1.full.pdf (open)

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