Breaking the Taboo: Sexual Assault in Late Life as a Multifaceted Phenomenon—Toward an Integrative Theoretical Framework

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sexual assault (SA) in late life has been receiving growing attention over the past two decades. It is directed primarily against older women and has been the least frequently reported form of abuse. Despite the growing awareness and body of knowledge on this phenomenon, the theoretical framework is still limited. Therefore, the aim of the present article is to suggest a theoretical conceptualization of the multifaceted phenomenon of sexual assault against women in late life (SAWLL). This conceptualization has been developed through several stages: (a) identification of three grounded fields of inquiry that are relevant to SAWLL: SA, elder mistreatment, and intimate partner violence; (b) classification of SAWLL along four paths: (1) ongoing SA in the context of lifelong IPV; (2) SA beginning in old age in the family within the community, involving spouses, family members, caregivers, dating mates, and so on; (3) ongoing SA, continuing in institutions, perpetrated by family members; and (4) SA in institutions, beginning in old age, relating to staff, residents, and family members; (c) We suggest three additional theoretical perspectives: trauma, a life-course perspective, and social constructionism, which provide further in-depth knowledge for understanding SAWLL. The combination of the three abovementioned stages composes an integrative theoretical framework, addressing SAWLL as a multifaceted phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by Israel Science Foundation, grant number 463/17.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • elder mistreatment
  • intimate partner violence
  • life course
  • old age
  • older women
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual assault
  • social constructionism
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Breaking the Taboo: Sexual Assault in Late Life as a Multifaceted Phenomenon—Toward an Integrative Theoretical Framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this