Understanding help-seeking in elder abuse from the perspectives of victims and their supporters

Silvia Fraga Dominguez

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The abuse of older adults by someone in a position of trust—also known as elder abuse—is estimated to affect one in six people aged 60 and older worldwide, with severe consequences for victims and society. Researchers have identified under-reporting as one of the major challenges in the field, which leads to many victims and perpetrators not receiving intervention, and thus to abuse reoccurrence and further harm. In this thesis the researcher aimed to address under-reporting by improving the understanding of victims’ help-seeking behaviours and those of others who help them informally: family members, friends, and neighbours (“concerned persons”, Breckman et al., 2017).
Guided by psychological theory, particularly the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1985) and utilising a mixed methods design, this thesis consisted of three studies. Study 1 was a systematic review of research about victims’ help-seeking behaviours. Across studies, many barriers were reported; however, there was less focus on facilitators, responses and outcomes of seeking help, and characteristics of victims most likely to seek help. In Study 2, the researcher addressed these gaps through a cross-sectional secondary analysis of enquiries to a major UK helpline and explored concerned persons’ experience of help-seeking. Study 3 involved gathering data about help-seeking experiences from concerned persons via interview and survey. The findings for victims expanded on the barriers and facilitators from Study 1 and indicated that several barriers were more common for certain abuse types, victim characteristics, and victim-perpetrator relationships. Concerned persons experienced barriers similar to victims, were negatively impacted by their involvement, and received largely inadequate responses from formal sources of help, which affected the likelihood of further help-seeking. In the discussion, recommendations for research, practice, and policy are provided; there is an emphasis on person-centred approaches and further integration of victims’ and concerned persons’ views in intervention.  
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Storey, Jennifer, Supervisor
  • Glorney, Emily, Supervisor
Award date1 Aug 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Elder abuse
  • Help-seeking
  • elder abuse victim
  • disclosure
  • Intervention
  • Reporting

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