22nd Nov 2023 Campaign

Hidden Harms Animation – recognising domestic abuse affecting older people

Domestic abuse can occur at any age. Research shows that domestic abuse affecting older people is often not recognised and under reported. Older people can be victims of interpersonal violence, or abuse by family members however we do not see older people in domestic abuse services as much as you would expect given the estimated prevalence.

Explore different types of abuse

Essex, Thurrock and Southend Adult Safeguarding Boards, Compass and SETDAB have worked in partnership with Dewis Choice to produce the animation ‘Hidden Harms‘ which can help you identify abusive and harmful behaviours by family members and/or intimate partners.

Based on the Duluth power and control wheel (adapted by Dewis Choice with older victim survivors), the aim of this short animation is to support practitioners and families to start a conversation with an older adult.

The animation explores different types of abuse, the unique challenges that older adults face when encountering domestic abuse and encourages individuals to seek help.  It demonstrates how abuse isn’t always physical and can include your partner, ex-partner or family member trying to control you.


The diversity of generational attitudes can make abuse hard to identify as each generation has a unique set of cultural norms and societal expectations. What may be perceived as acceptable or unacceptable can vary greatly between different age groups.

Another challenge is that safeguarding often considers ‘carer’s stress’ when incidents occur, and while one-off events do happen, a deeper exploration is necessary to determine whether there are any underlying patterns or a history of mistreatment. The perpetrator may also have care needs – someone with a dementia may hit out at their carer or be verbally abusive, equally a victim with dementia must have their voice heard.

Use and share

This animation is freely available to be adopted into your work practice when supporting older adults at risk of domestic abuse.  We encourage you to share it with your staff, volunteers and wider networks.

Further learning:

Discover the free abuse and older people e-learning package:

Domestic Abuse & Older People E’Learning – Southend and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Partnership (

Help and support:

For help and support please contact Compass on 0330 333 7 444 (8.00am to 8.00pm weekdays, 8.00am to 1pm weekends)

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 999