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Author: Hannah Bows

There is now an extensive body of literature examining sexual violence against women and girls. However, there remains an important gap in relation to ‘older’ women, who have been almost entirely absent from research, policy and practice developments. Traditionally, older age has been reviewed as a protective factor for violent crime, including sexual violence, and both criminologists and feminists have largely neglected those aged over 60 in their scholarship. This chapter examines this absence and argues that ‘real rape’ myths and stereotypes have contributed to the invisibility of older victims. Findings from the first national study to examine sexual violence against people aged 60 and over are presented and discussed in light of the existing literature.

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Author: Hannah Bows

Despite the vast amount of sexual violence research, there exists an important gap in knowledge around older victims and offenders. Internationally, the focus of academic research, policy and practice has been on young women who are consistently found to be most 'at risk' of experiencing sexual violence. Consequently, we know very little about the extent, nature and impacts of sexual violence for older adults. The 'real rape' stereotype of the young, white attractive woman who is raped by a young stranger, often at night in a public place, has contributed to the exclusion of older victims and the denial that sexual violence occurs across the life course. Furthermore, the majority of prevention initiatives and campaigns have often exacerbated and reinforced the 'real rape' stereotype. Drawing on the first national study to examine sexual violence against older people in the UK, this chapter presents the findings from qualitative interviews with practitioners working in sexual violence organisations (n=23), age-related organisations (n=4) and older survivors (n=3) to examine challenges and opportunities for preventing, and responding to, sexual violence in later life.

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Crime and safety at UK music festivals is a subject of growing concern for festival management, police and festival-goers, bolstered by increasing media coverage of incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. To date, however, there has been limited evidence regarding festival-goers’ experiences and perspectives concerning safety, particularly in relation to gender-based violence at music festivals. Using data from a mixed methods pilot study, this article presents the findings of a self-selecting survey of 450 festival-goers which asked respondents about their perceptions of safety and experiences of different crime and harms including gender-based violence at UK music festivals. The findings reveal that most respondents report feeling safe at festivals, but various personal, social and environmental factors may increase or reduce these feelings of safety, and these are gendered. Similarly, although experiences of acquisitive crime, hate crime and stalking were low and broadly similar for women and men, a third of women experienced sexual harassment and 8% experienced sexual assault – significantly higher than the reported levels among male respondents. We argue that festivals must work proactively with key stakeholders and agencies, as well as artists and patrons, to develop clear policies and initiatives to prevent sexual violence.

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This commentary responds to claims that research by Cheryl Thomas ‘shows’ no problem with rape myths in English and Welsh juries. We critique the claim on the basis of ambiguous survey design, a false distinction between ‘real’ jurors and other research participants, the conflation of attitudes in relation to abstract versus applied rape myths, and misleading interpretation of the data. Ultimately, we call for a balanced appraisal of individual studies by contextualising them against the wider literature.

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