Intimate partner violence in long-term relationships of older adults

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Dewan-Kryger, Smriti
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Increases in the proportion of older people in Canada have focussed needed attention on the issues and concerns for this group. One prevalent issue is the nature of experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) for older adults. These experiences have been overlooked in the domestic violence theory and research where the focus has been on the needs of younger women and also within the elder abuse research and literature where the emphasis has been placed on aging (dementia) and caregiving. As a result, less is known about the experiences of older adults in intimate relationships and how the power and control dynamics manifest and shift within the context of long-term relationships. How do these dynamics change or remain the same in intimate relationships of older adults? How do the victims resist the violent and controlling tactics of perpetrators and how does this resistance influence and shift the nature of power and control in these intimate relationships? Using techniques borrowed from grounded theory, this study was undertaken with the aim of exploring power and control dynamics in intimate relationships of older adults in long-term abusive relationships. The findings demonstrated by the victims reported that their partners used different forms of violent tactics in the early years of these intimate relationships and typically used more nonviolent coercive controlling tactics in later years. In some of the relationships, control continued past the period of separation and divorce. Victims presented themselves as active agents and demonstrated resistance that was more overt in the early years, which became more subtle and discreet as these relationships matured. For victims, resisting their partners’ efforts to control them provided them with some momentary power in the relationship; however, the participants’ control was mostly situation-specific and temporary. For victims who were still living with their abusive partners, resistance allowed them to set boundaries with their partners and provided them with some space of their own within their relationships to engage in activities of their choice. These boundaries, however, are under constant scrutiny by the abusive partners and although victims demonstrate resistance to assert their dignity, the overarching control continued to be with the abusive partner. Narratives also provided by the participants also demonstrated the impacts of intimate partner violence to their sense of health and well-being.
power, control, resistance, intimate partner violence, older adults, long-term relationships, elder abuse