J Aging Soc Policy. 2023 Nov 26:1-16. doi: 10.1080/08959420.2023.2284575. Online ahead of print.
There is growing recognition that older persons, both male and female, may experience sexual assault. One clearly identified gap in the body of scientific literature is examination of the criminal justice response for older adults who have been sexually assaulted. This retrospective age-group comparative data analysis examines publicly available population and police statistics for 2018 to describe rates (per 100,000) of reported sexual assault across adult age categories (young adult, n = 748; adult, n = 1,478; middle age, n = 290; older adult, n = 58) and compare (using Chi-square bivariate analysis) the criminal justice response to sexual assault for these adult age categories in New Zealand (NZ). Sexual assault was perpetrated against victims across all age and sex groups examined. The rate of reported sexual assault against older adults was significantly lower after the age of 65 years (7.90 per 100,000) compared to younger adults aged 20-64 years (87.57 per 100,000). Across age categories no difference was found in the proportion of cases proceeded to court action. This study raises awareness of the topic of sexual assault perpetrated against older persons and shows that a substantial number of older adults experience sexual assault in cases that do not result in court action. It points to the need for policy-makers to consider the reporting of sexual assaults against older persons to justice services.