Tag Archives: women

How can we make healthcare a better place for women to work? Live event

The NHS is the UK’s biggest employer, with a workforce of of 1.7 million people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 77% of whom are women.

While healthcare is seen as a good place for women to work, many in the sector feel there is a glass ceiling. Despite women making up more than three-quarters of all NHS staff, they are still in the minority in senior roles. Healthcare professionals have also raised concerns about whether it is possible to strike a good work-life balance.

The Guardian is hosting a discussion and networking event to consider how to make healthcare a better place for women to work.

The event will take place at the Guardian’s London offices from 6pm on Thursday 12 July. Our panel of speakers will debate, among other things:

  • Is there a glass ceiling in the NHS? If so, what is causing it?
  • What are the barriers to flexible working and why do these disproportionately affect women?
  • Are women underrepresented in any roles or specialisms? What is being done to bring women into these professions?
  • Could employers do more in terms of professional support and mentoring to ensure women develop in their careers?
  • What are the benefits to the NHS and patients in being a more representative employer at all levels?
  • Do women need to leave the NHS to fulfil ambitions in healthcare? Are there employers beyond the NHS that are able to be more flexible?

The event is aimed at healthcare professionals – men and women – and while it is free, please be aware that space is limited. If you’d like to attend, please fill in the form below. Those who have been successful will receive an email to confirm their place.

The panel

Samantha Jones, director of the new care models programme, NHS England
Dido Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe, chair, NHS Improvement

Further panellists and discussion chair to be announced

Programme

6pm-6.45pm: Attendee arrival, registration, refreshments, networking

6.45pm-6.50pm: Chair’s welcome

6.50pm-7.40pm: Panel discussion

7.40pm-7.55pm: Audience Q&A

7.55pm-8pm: Chair closing comments

8pm-8.45pm: Networking and mentor partnering

8.45pm: Event ends, goody bags handed out

Amy Schumer’s new film shows Hollywood is the Sunken Place for smart women

So I’ve just seen Amy Schumer’s new film, I Feel Pretty, and I’m confused. What message am I supposed to draw from it?
Daisy, by email

Glad you asked, Daisy, because there are many lessons to take from I Feel Pretty, but not one of them is the message that the movie itself is promoting. Let’s look at this film, briefly. Schumer plays a woman, Renee, who feels ugly and is treated like an absolute troll by everyone around her, because that is how Hollywood thinks people who look like Schumer should be treated. She then whacks her head on a giant piece of Convenient Plot Device and is so brain-damaged that when she wakes up she thinks she looks beautiful because, Christ, you’d basically have to knock out all your grey matter to think Schumer, an A-list actress, is attractive, right? The film proceeds to laugh at her for the next two or whatever hours as she goes around town acting deranged because she thinks she’s gorgeous, which is definitely how grown women behave. She also ditches her friends because she feels too beautiful for them, which is also how women behave, and all of this is a searing exploration of the beauty standards for women or something something blah blah blah feminist lite word salad feminist lite word salad. Anyway, the film ends with Renee realising she’s not pretty, but is, like, on the inside, and she then makes a super-inspirational speech about the importance of inner beauty while selling makeup to other women the film considers equally trollish. Because inner beauty is great but, let’s be honest, gals, it has its limits.

Schumer has spent much of the past few months insisting this film is all about helping women’s self-esteem, which suggests she hasn’t actually seen it. Because what it is actually saying is that women who don’t look like Emily Ratajkowski, who also appears in the film, are public laughing stocks who, at best, might learn to style it out. Well, I can’t really blame Schumer for giving it a miss because it’s absolute garbage and I’d rather eat my hands than have to sit through it again.

What I am interested in is not what beauty does or doesn’t do to women, but what Hollywood has done to Schumer. There is a fascinating disjunct between the stuff Schumer made for TV and the stuff she is making for the movies. Her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, was uneven, like all sketch shows, but when it was good it was excellent, skewering standards for female beauty and the expectations society puts on women and women put on themselves. Yet her films, namely Trainwreck and I Feel Pretty, do precisely the opposite. In Trainwreck, which Schumer wrote, her character had to prove she was worth some tedious sports doctor, and to do this she had to quit her job, become a cheerleader and be physically humiliated. I Feel Pretty is one long sneer at Schumer and anyone who doesn’t look like Ratajkowski, a woman whose real-life career, as far as I can tell, is Instagramming her cleavage. Now, we can argue all day about whether photographing your boobs is a feminist pursuit or not (spoiler: it’s not), but any film that posits someone who does this as the physical ideal is not a film that can seriously claim it is fighting against the narrowness of beauty standards for women.

Schumer is not the first woman whose brilliance on TV has been bleached out of her in the movies – Tina Fey has been here before her, as was Gilda Radner before that. But there is something extra dismaying about seeing Schumer make – and defend! – this egregious woman-hating garbage, when she used to be smarter than this. So the conclusion to draw, Daisy, is that Hollywood is the Sunken Place for smart women, where their souls and brains are cut out of them as they find themselves serving, zombie-like, the oppressors they once abhorred. It’s too late to save Schumer, but can we all just promise not to let Mindy Kaling, Jessica Williams and Kristen Schaal go the same way, too? Because, honestly, I don’t think my heart could take it.

In the NHS breast-screening scandal, first priority must be the women | Philippa Whitford

On Wednesday the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced that an estimated 450,000 women in England were not invited to their final breast-screening mammogram, between the ages of 68 and 71, as a result of an IT failure dating back to 2009. The shocking scale of the problem has raised a number of questions; not just how it came about, but also how it took nine years to be identified. The immediate focus must be on urgently rectifying the situation for the women involved.


It is especially harrowing for those who have lost a wife, mother or sister to breast cancer over the last nine years

Women over the age of 70 who have been subsequently diagnosed with a more advanced breast cancer during that period will wonder if it might have been picked up earlier, or required less aggressive treatment, had they undergone the final mammogram screening.

It is especially harrowing for those who have lost a wife, mother or sister to breast cancer over the last nine years, and cannot help but wonder if it could be related to their being part of this cohort of women. Facing difficult cancer treatment or mourning the death of a loved one is hard enough, but the thought that this could have been avoided will make it worse.

The first priority is to identify the more than 300,000 women estimated to still be alive, and get in touch with them to offer a mammogram now if appropriate. Women aged under 72 years will automatically be offered a mammogram appointment, while older women will be asked to phone a contact number to discuss the possible benefits of having a mammogram. This is important: some of the women affected will be almost 80 years old and, depending on their general health, there is a risk they could undergo treatment for lesions that would be so slow-growing they would never have caused any problems. Even tracking everyone down will be a major undertaking, to ensure, as the secretary of state promised, that all the women affected receive a letter by the end of May.

Hunt said no such problem had been identified in the breast-screening services of Wales or Northern Ireland, although they use a similar IT system, while Scotland uses a totally different IT system. However, the devolved nations will have to help NHS England identify women who may have subsequently moved from England in their late 60s or early 70s, and arrange to offer them mammograms at their local screening unit.

Hunt has promised that all catch-up mammograms will be carried out within the next six months, but carrying out thousands of extra mammograms will put further strain on breast-screening services stretched by a significant shortage of radiographers and radiologists. While he has promised extra, it will be challenging to avoid impacting the regular screening service for women aged 50-70. Extra sessions may have to be carried out in evenings or weekends.

I welcome the fact that there will be an independent review to find out what actually went wrong and why it was not spotted for so long. Early detection of any cancer provides the best chance of a positive outcome so it is important that this failure to recall women for their final mammogram does not put others off from taking up their normal screening invite.

Philippa Whitford is a breast cancer surgeon and an SNP MP

Older women are victims of domestic violence, too

Shortly before she reached retirement age, Marie Burke’s husband had a stroke. After a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation. So that he didn’t have to go into care permanently, Burke (not her real name) agreed to leave her job two years early and become his full-time carer. Then the problems in their relationship began.

Her husband would pore over bank statements, demand she hand over receipts for all expenditure and raise his voice if she couldn’t account for any small sums. “I paid for two cappuccinos, a juice and some cake in Starbucks, forgot to get a receipt and he accused me of lying,” Burke says. “He was convinced I’d been meeting another man, not my daughter-in-law. When I texted her asking her to tell him it was true, he said I was trying to make him look mad.” The controlling behaviour escalated: her trips outside of the home were timed, and all but non-essential outings were banned. Barely a day went by without her husband shouting at her, complaining about her cooking, her spending, her appearance, her housekeeping and her cooking. “He even said my breathing was too loud and kept him awake, so I slept on the sofa.”

Until then, Burke had considered her marriage of 40 years to be a happy one. Now, at 68, she says the signs of domestic abuse may have been obvious, but she had considered abuse to be something that happened to younger women, often with dependent children. Burke’s three sons were all in their 40s and had their own families, and only one lived nearby.

Burke, it turns out, is by no means alone. Domestic violence is a growing problem among older couples, but it is not always taken seriously. The latest Femicide Census – research collated by Women’s Aid on women killed by male partners – found that 11.5% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were aged 66 or over. According to a 2016 report by domestic abuse charity Safe Lives, an estimated 120,000 women over 65 had experienced at least one form of abuse. Often, like in Burke’s case, the abuse only begins when the couple have retired and are spending much more time together alone at home. Older victims are less likely to leave abusive relationships than younger people. Whereas more than two-thirds of victims aged under 60 left their abuser in the year before seeking help, barely a quarter of older people did. And a third of victims over 60 were still living with their abuser while seeking help, compared with just 9% of younger victims.

“Our research found that older people are much more likely than younger people to be abused by a family member. Because this abuse doesn’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear domestic abuse, older people can often be hidden from services,” says Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of Safe Lives. “Generational attitudes can also mean that, sadly, people can have been living with abuse for decades without ever being able to name it as abuse.”

Jacob wants to see more targeted publicity in places like GP surgeries and bus stops. “No one should live in fear, whatever their age,” she says.

Few services focusing exclusively on domestic violence and older people operate in the UK, but victims are encouraged to contact national or local helplines, such as the National Domestic Violence helpline, and Solace Women’s Aid Advice line Freephone number 0808 802 5565, or to speak to doctors, social services and the safeguarding teams at their local council for help.

Burke began to realise that what she was experiencing was abuse when she saw her GP about panic attacks. A poster on the door of the surgery’s toilet listing abusive patterns of behaviour encouraged her to mention her situation. Her GP responded by giving her appointment slips, which meant she could leave the house and phone a helpline without arousing suspicion.

Burke spoke to someone at Women’s Aid who confirmed that her situation was abusive and that the abuse was not her fault. She was told that if she wanted to remain at home, she could look into legal avenues to have her husband evicted. But, she was afraid to seek practical help. “There was no way I could leave without a legal battle over the house, and my sons loved their father, the grandchildren loved him, everyone in my life knew him as well. I didn’t think I could start a whole new life, he’d always be in my life. And I was his carer. If I left, who would look after him every day? I didn’t want to live this way, but I didn’t want him to suffer,” Burke explains. After five years of abuse, her husband suffered a second stroke and died a day later.

Burke’s situation is mirrored in Do You See Her?, a film produced by Women’s Aid. It depicts an older couple hosting a happy family meal, and goes on to show the abuse that happens when their children and grandchildren aren’t present.

[embedded content]

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says: “We need to challenge the perceptions about who abuse happens to. The film is a stark reminder that even those closest to a woman who is being abused may not know what is going on behind closed doors. Any woman, of any age, can be forced to live in the invisible prison of domestic abuse – including those with adult children and grandchildren. We want to send a clear message to all older women experiencing abuse that you are not alone, we’re here for you.

“It is clear that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, yet they are the age group least likely to access support. That’s why we have pioneered our Change that Lasts project, working with frontline professionals in health and social care to help them identify and understand domestic abuse, and feel confident enough to offer support and a helpful response to older survivors.”

Jacob concurs: “We’d like to see professionals in all agencies given the tools and training to recognise the signs of abuse in older people, and to know that domestic abuse doesn’t always take the form you might expect. It doesn’t have to be physical to be domestic abuse.”

Bridget Penhale, reader in mental health of older people at the University of East Anglia, is working on an EU-funded, six-country project examining the prevalence of domestic violence among older people. “We are picking up on a lot of cases [in the UK] of assault and serious assaults on older women by their partners,” she says. “It may be the case that the man has cognitive impairment, the police investigate and the CPS say it’s not worth prosecuting. We want to look at the police arresting perpetrators as part of their response to this problem.” She is working with the police and criminal justice agencies to develop a training module for officers.

Burke now volunteers from home on a helpline for all victims of domestic abuse in her region, run by a charity involved with her local church, but she has never told her children about the abuse she suffered. “I told two friends after his death, but I still felt so guilty. I want to tell other people it’s not their fault,” she says. “I wish I’d been braver. I want to help people realise they don’t deserve this, they should ask for help. I thought my friends wouldn’t believe me. But they did. You will be believed.”

The National Domestic Violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247

Older women are victims of domestic violence, too

Shortly before she reached retirement age, Marie Burke’s husband had a stroke. After a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation. So that he didn’t have to go into care permanently, Burke (not her real name) agreed to leave her job two years early and become his full-time carer. Then the problems in their relationship began.

Her husband would pore over bank statements, demand she hand over receipts for all expenditure and raise his voice if she couldn’t account for any small sums. “I paid for two cappuccinos, a juice and some cake in Starbucks, forgot to get a receipt and he accused me of lying,” Burke says. “He was convinced I’d been meeting another man, not my daughter-in-law. When I texted her asking her to tell him it was true, he said I was trying to make him look mad.” The controlling behaviour escalated: her trips outside of the home were timed, and all but non-essential outings were banned. Barely a day went by without her husband shouting at her, complaining about her cooking, her spending, her appearance, her housekeeping and her cooking. “He even said my breathing was too loud and kept him awake, so I slept on the sofa.”

Until then, Burke had considered her marriage of 40 years to be a happy one. Now, at 68, she says the signs of domestic abuse may have been obvious, but she had considered abuse to be something that happened to younger women, often with dependent children. Burke’s three sons were all in their 40s and had their own families, and only one lived nearby.

Burke, it turns out, is by no means alone. Domestic violence is a growing problem among older couples, but it is not always taken seriously. The latest Femicide Census – research collated by Women’s Aid on women killed by male partners – found that 11.5% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were aged 66 or over. According to a 2016 report by domestic abuse charity Safe Lives, an estimated 120,000 women over 65 had experienced at least one form of abuse. Often, like in Burke’s case, the abuse only begins when the couple have retired and are spending much more time together alone at home. Older victims are less likely to leave abusive relationships than younger people. Whereas more than two-thirds of victims aged under 60 left their abuser in the year before seeking help, barely a quarter of older people did. And a third of victims over 60 were still living with their abuser while seeking help, compared with just 9% of younger victims.

“Our research found that older people are much more likely than younger people to be abused by a family member. Because this abuse doesn’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear domestic abuse, older people can often be hidden from services,” says Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of Safe Lives. “Generational attitudes can also mean that, sadly, people can have been living with abuse for decades without ever being able to name it as abuse.”

Jacob wants to see more targeted publicity in places like GP surgeries and bus stops. “No one should live in fear, whatever their age,” she says.

Few services focusing exclusively on domestic violence and older people operate in the UK, but victims are encouraged to contact national or local helplines, such as the National Domestic Violence helpline, and Solace Women’s Aid Advice line Freephone number 0808 802 5565, or to speak to doctors, social services and the safeguarding teams at their local council for help.

Burke began to realise that what she was experiencing was abuse when she saw her GP about panic attacks. A poster on the door of the surgery’s toilet listing abusive patterns of behaviour encouraged her to mention her situation. Her GP responded by giving her appointment slips, which meant she could leave the house and phone a helpline without arousing suspicion.

Burke spoke to someone at Women’s Aid who confirmed that her situation was abusive and that the abuse was not her fault. She was told that if she wanted to remain at home, she could look into legal avenues to have her husband evicted. But, she was afraid to seek practical help. “There was no way I could leave without a legal battle over the house, and my sons loved their father, the grandchildren loved him, everyone in my life knew him as well. I didn’t think I could start a whole new life, he’d always be in my life. And I was his carer. If I left, who would look after him every day? I didn’t want to live this way, but I didn’t want him to suffer,” Burke explains. After five years of abuse, her husband suffered a second stroke and died a day later.

Burke’s situation is mirrored in Do You See Her?, a film produced by Women’s Aid. It depicts an older couple hosting a happy family meal, and goes on to show the abuse that happens when their children and grandchildren aren’t present.

[embedded content]

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says: “We need to challenge the perceptions about who abuse happens to. The film is a stark reminder that even those closest to a woman who is being abused may not know what is going on behind closed doors. Any woman, of any age, can be forced to live in the invisible prison of domestic abuse – including those with adult children and grandchildren. We want to send a clear message to all older women experiencing abuse that you are not alone, we’re here for you.

“It is clear that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, yet they are the age group least likely to access support. That’s why we have pioneered our Change that Lasts project, working with frontline professionals in health and social care to help them identify and understand domestic abuse, and feel confident enough to offer support and a helpful response to older survivors.”

Jacob concurs: “We’d like to see professionals in all agencies given the tools and training to recognise the signs of abuse in older people, and to know that domestic abuse doesn’t always take the form you might expect. It doesn’t have to be physical to be domestic abuse.”

Bridget Penhale, reader in mental health of older people at the University of East Anglia, is working on an EU-funded, six-country project examining the prevalence of domestic violence among older people. “We are picking up on a lot of cases [in the UK] of assault and serious assaults on older women by their partners,” she says. “It may be the case that the man has cognitive impairment, the police investigate and the CPS say it’s not worth prosecuting. We want to look at the police arresting perpetrators as part of their response to this problem.” She is working with the police and criminal justice agencies to develop a training module for officers.

Burke now volunteers from home on a helpline for all victims of domestic abuse in her region, run by a charity involved with her local church, but she has never told her children about the abuse she suffered. “I told two friends after his death, but I still felt so guilty. I want to tell other people it’s not their fault,” she says. “I wish I’d been braver. I want to help people realise they don’t deserve this, they should ask for help. I thought my friends wouldn’t believe me. But they did. You will be believed.”

The National Domestic Violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247

Older women are victims of domestic violence, too

Shortly before she reached retirement age, Marie Burke’s husband had a stroke. After a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation. So that he didn’t have to go into care permanently, Burke (not her real name) agreed to leave her job two years early and become his full-time carer. Then the problems in their relationship began.

Her husband would pore over bank statements, demand she hand over receipts for all expenditure and raise his voice if she couldn’t account for any small sums. “I paid for two cappuccinos, a juice and some cake in Starbucks, forgot to get a receipt and he accused me of lying,” Burke says. “He was convinced I’d been meeting another man, not my daughter-in-law. When I texted her asking her to tell him it was true, he said I was trying to make him look mad.” The controlling behaviour escalated: her trips outside of the home were timed, and all but non-essential outings were banned. Barely a day went by without her husband shouting at her, complaining about her cooking, her spending, her appearance, her housekeeping and her cooking. “He even said my breathing was too loud and kept him awake, so I slept on the sofa.”

Until then, Burke had considered her marriage of 40 years to be a happy one. Now, at 68, she says the signs of domestic abuse may have been obvious, but she had considered abuse to be something that happened to younger women, often with dependent children. Burke’s three sons were all in their 40s and had their own families, and only one lived nearby.

Burke, it turns out, is by no means alone. Domestic violence is a growing problem among older couples, but it is not always taken seriously. The latest Femicide Census – research collated by Women’s Aid on women killed by male partners – found that 11.5% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were aged 66 or over. According to a 2016 report by domestic abuse charity Safe Lives, an estimated 120,000 women over 65 had experienced at least one form of abuse. Often, like in Burke’s case, the abuse only begins when the couple have retired and are spending much more time together alone at home. Older victims are less likely to leave abusive relationships than younger people. Whereas more than two-thirds of victims aged under 60 left their abuser in the year before seeking help, barely a quarter of older people did. And a third of victims over 60 were still living with their abuser while seeking help, compared with just 9% of younger victims.

“Our research found that older people are much more likely than younger people to be abused by a family member. Because this abuse doesn’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear domestic abuse, older people can often be hidden from services,” says Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of Safe Lives. “Generational attitudes can also mean that, sadly, people can have been living with abuse for decades without ever being able to name it as abuse.”

Jacob wants to see more targeted publicity in places like GP surgeries and bus stops. “No one should live in fear, whatever their age,” she says.

Few services focusing exclusively on domestic violence and older people operate in the UK, but victims are encouraged to contact national or local helplines, such as the National Domestic Violence helpline, and Solace Women’s Aid Advice line Freephone number 0808 802 5565, or to speak to doctors, social services and the safeguarding teams at their local council for help.

Burke began to realise that what she was experiencing was abuse when she saw her GP about panic attacks. A poster on the door of the surgery’s toilet listing abusive patterns of behaviour encouraged her to mention her situation. Her GP responded by giving her appointment slips, which meant she could leave the house and phone a helpline without arousing suspicion.

Burke spoke to someone at Women’s Aid who confirmed that her situation was abusive and that the abuse was not her fault. She was told that if she wanted to remain at home, she could look into legal avenues to have her husband evicted. But, she was afraid to seek practical help. “There was no way I could leave without a legal battle over the house, and my sons loved their father, the grandchildren loved him, everyone in my life knew him as well. I didn’t think I could start a whole new life, he’d always be in my life. And I was his carer. If I left, who would look after him every day? I didn’t want to live this way, but I didn’t want him to suffer,” Burke explains. After five years of abuse, her husband suffered a second stroke and died a day later.

Burke’s situation is mirrored in Do You See Her?, a film produced by Women’s Aid. It depicts an older couple hosting a happy family meal, and goes on to show the abuse that happens when their children and grandchildren aren’t present.

[embedded content]

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says: “We need to challenge the perceptions about who abuse happens to. The film is a stark reminder that even those closest to a woman who is being abused may not know what is going on behind closed doors. Any woman, of any age, can be forced to live in the invisible prison of domestic abuse – including those with adult children and grandchildren. We want to send a clear message to all older women experiencing abuse that you are not alone, we’re here for you.

“It is clear that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, yet they are the age group least likely to access support. That’s why we have pioneered our Change that Lasts project, working with frontline professionals in health and social care to help them identify and understand domestic abuse, and feel confident enough to offer support and a helpful response to older survivors.”

Jacob concurs: “We’d like to see professionals in all agencies given the tools and training to recognise the signs of abuse in older people, and to know that domestic abuse doesn’t always take the form you might expect. It doesn’t have to be physical to be domestic abuse.”

Bridget Penhale, reader in mental health of older people at the University of East Anglia, is working on an EU-funded, six-country project examining the prevalence of domestic violence among older people. “We are picking up on a lot of cases [in the UK] of assault and serious assaults on older women by their partners,” she says. “It may be the case that the man has cognitive impairment, the police investigate and the CPS say it’s not worth prosecuting. We want to look at the police arresting perpetrators as part of their response to this problem.” She is working with the police and criminal justice agencies to develop a training module for officers.

Burke now volunteers from home on a helpline for all victims of domestic abuse in her region, run by a charity involved with her local church, but she has never told her children about the abuse she suffered. “I told two friends after his death, but I still felt so guilty. I want to tell other people it’s not their fault,” she says. “I wish I’d been braver. I want to help people realise they don’t deserve this, they should ask for help. I thought my friends wouldn’t believe me. But they did. You will be believed.”

The National Domestic Violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247

Older women are victims of domestic violence, too

Shortly before she reached retirement age, Marie Burke’s husband had a stroke. After a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation. So that he didn’t have to go into care permanently, Burke (not her real name) agreed to leave her job two years early and become his full-time carer. Then the problems in their relationship began.

Her husband would pore over bank statements, demand she hand over receipts for all expenditure and raise his voice if she couldn’t account for any small sums. “I paid for two cappuccinos, a juice and some cake in Starbucks, forgot to get a receipt and he accused me of lying,” Burke says. “He was convinced I’d been meeting another man, not my daughter-in-law. When I texted her asking her to tell him it was true, he said I was trying to make him look mad.” The controlling behaviour escalated: her trips outside of the home were timed, and all but non-essential outings were banned. Barely a day went by without her husband shouting at her, complaining about her cooking, her spending, her appearance, her housekeeping and her cooking. “He even said my breathing was too loud and kept him awake, so I slept on the sofa.”

Until then, Burke had considered her marriage of 40 years to be a happy one. Now, at 68, she says the signs of domestic abuse may have been obvious, but she had considered abuse to be something that happened to younger women, often with dependent children. Burke’s three sons were all in their 40s and had their own families, and only one lived nearby.

Burke, it turns out, is by no means alone. Domestic violence is a growing problem among older couples, but it is not always taken seriously. The latest Femicide Census – research collated by Women’s Aid on women killed by male partners – found that 11.5% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were aged 66 or over. According to a 2016 report by domestic abuse charity Safe Lives, an estimated 120,000 women over 65 had experienced at least one form of abuse. Often, like in Burke’s case, the abuse only begins when the couple have retired and are spending much more time together alone at home. Older victims are less likely to leave abusive relationships than younger people. Whereas more than two-thirds of victims aged under 60 left their abuser in the year before seeking help, barely a quarter of older people did. And a third of victims over 60 were still living with their abuser while seeking help, compared with just 9% of younger victims.

“Our research found that older people are much more likely than younger people to be abused by a family member. Because this abuse doesn’t fit the image of what most people think of when they hear domestic abuse, older people can often be hidden from services,” says Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of Safe Lives. “Generational attitudes can also mean that, sadly, people can have been living with abuse for decades without ever being able to name it as abuse.”

Jacob wants to see more targeted publicity in places like GP surgeries and bus stops. “No one should live in fear, whatever their age,” she says.

Few services focusing exclusively on domestic violence and older people operate in the UK, but victims are encouraged to contact national or local helplines, such as the National Domestic Violence helpline, and Solace Women’s Aid Advice line Freephone number 0808 802 5565, or to speak to doctors, social services and the safeguarding teams at their local council for help.

Burke began to realise that what she was experiencing was abuse when she saw her GP about panic attacks. A poster on the door of the surgery’s toilet listing abusive patterns of behaviour encouraged her to mention her situation. Her GP responded by giving her appointment slips, which meant she could leave the house and phone a helpline without arousing suspicion.

Burke spoke to someone at Women’s Aid who confirmed that her situation was abusive and that the abuse was not her fault. She was told that if she wanted to remain at home, she could look into legal avenues to have her husband evicted. But, she was afraid to seek practical help. “There was no way I could leave without a legal battle over the house, and my sons loved their father, the grandchildren loved him, everyone in my life knew him as well. I didn’t think I could start a whole new life, he’d always be in my life. And I was his carer. If I left, who would look after him every day? I didn’t want to live this way, but I didn’t want him to suffer,” Burke explains. After five years of abuse, her husband suffered a second stroke and died a day later.

Burke’s situation is mirrored in Do You See Her?, a film produced by Women’s Aid. It depicts an older couple hosting a happy family meal, and goes on to show the abuse that happens when their children and grandchildren aren’t present.

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Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says: “We need to challenge the perceptions about who abuse happens to. The film is a stark reminder that even those closest to a woman who is being abused may not know what is going on behind closed doors. Any woman, of any age, can be forced to live in the invisible prison of domestic abuse – including those with adult children and grandchildren. We want to send a clear message to all older women experiencing abuse that you are not alone, we’re here for you.

“It is clear that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, yet they are the age group least likely to access support. That’s why we have pioneered our Change that Lasts project, working with frontline professionals in health and social care to help them identify and understand domestic abuse, and feel confident enough to offer support and a helpful response to older survivors.”

Jacob concurs: “We’d like to see professionals in all agencies given the tools and training to recognise the signs of abuse in older people, and to know that domestic abuse doesn’t always take the form you might expect. It doesn’t have to be physical to be domestic abuse.”

Bridget Penhale, reader in mental health of older people at the University of East Anglia, is working on an EU-funded, six-country project examining the prevalence of domestic violence among older people. “We are picking up on a lot of cases [in the UK] of assault and serious assaults on older women by their partners,” she says. “It may be the case that the man has cognitive impairment, the police investigate and the CPS say it’s not worth prosecuting. We want to look at the police arresting perpetrators as part of their response to this problem.” She is working with the police and criminal justice agencies to develop a training module for officers.

Burke now volunteers from home on a helpline for all victims of domestic abuse in her region, run by a charity involved with her local church, but she has never told her children about the abuse she suffered. “I told two friends after his death, but I still felt so guilty. I want to tell other people it’s not their fault,” she says. “I wish I’d been braver. I want to help people realise they don’t deserve this, they should ask for help. I thought my friends wouldn’t believe me. But they did. You will be believed.”

The National Domestic Violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247

Vaginal mesh surgery exposed women to ‘unacceptable risks’

Women have been exposed to unacceptable risks through the use of vaginal mesh surgery, the government has acknowledged for the first time, as fresh evidence has revealed that thousands of women have suffered traumatic complications.

In a parliamentary debate on the use of the implants, Jackie Doyle-Price, junior minister at the Department of Health, said it was a “tragedy” that women who had put their trust in the medical establishment had “come out with the most debilitating injuries”.

“These products … should only be used as an extreme measure,” she addded. “We should be very concerned by the extent to which these were adopted.”

Previously, the department of health had stated that the benefits of vaginal mesh surgery outweighed the risks.

Labour’s Emma Hardy, who secured the parliamentary debate on the issue, led calls to suspend the use of surgical mesh and for the government to consider launching a full public inquiry, adding that doctors and patients had been “voting with their feet” on the surgery.

The Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle MP said: “During the last nine years the figures show the number of women having the procedure has fallen by 48%, which to me says an awful lot about what the doctors are thinking about this. These women were injured, these women were ignored, these women are the victims of a scandal.”

Hardy cited figures from an NHS Digital report published this week showing that for every 100 women who have a vaginal mesh procedure, there 79 are subsequent gynaecology outpatients within a single year.

She used the backbench business debate to call for Nice guidelines for mesh in stress-related urinary incontinence to be brought forward from 2019 to 2018, and for pelvic floor physiotherapy to be routinely offered on the NHS to all new mothers.

“There is also still no physiotherapy universally available for all new mothers as standard, as there is in France, to stop these problems before they even arise,” she said.

MPs heard a series of harrowing accounts of constituents who had suffered life-altering complications due to surgery, including women left suicidal, of mesh embedded in pelvic tissue “like barbed wire”, of organs removed due to damage, loss of sex lives and the psychological trauma of being dismissed by doctors.

Labour’s Sharon Hodgson described how her 70-year-old mother had struggled with pelvic pain and urinary infections for the past five years after having mesh surgery.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP and chair of the Health select committee, criticised “cavalier attitudes” to the adoption of medical implants and a “wild west” where mesh was aggressively marketed without having undergone clinical trials.

“Many of the women that I have met, as I say, have had profound, life-changing injuries and I think they are entitled, many of these women, to compensation,” she added.

Labour’s Owen Smith, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on surgical mesh, said there had been almost one million outpatient appointments linked to vaginal mesh, with costs to the NHS somewhere in the region of £250m.
A so-called “failure rate” of between 1% to 3% was not acceptable anyway, Mr Smith said, adding that the numbers “are far greater than that”.

Graph showing number of patients who went on to have the surgery reversed.

Government figures show that about 500 removal surgeries for vaginal mesh have taken place every year for the past decade. The initial keyhole surgery, usually takes less than half an hour and involves inserting a plastic mesh into the vagina to support the bladder, womb or bowel and pelvic floor muscles. However, reversing the procedure can involve open surgery that is risky and complex since the mesh becomes embedded in muscle and sometimes attached to pelvic organs.

The latest figures, published this week, imply much higher complication rates than those previously reported in both industry-funded trials and a 2014 government report assessing the risks and benefits of vaginal mesh, which estimated the removal rate for TVT at 0.9% and the rate of complications, such as pain, at below 1.5%.

Owen Smith MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on surgical mesh, said: “These statistics show that the scale and complexity of the problems associated with mesh is far greater than has previously been accepted.

The government has asked Baroness Julia Cumberledge to investigate concerns about vaginal mesh, in a review that will also look at the pregnancy test Primodos, and an epilepsy drug.

Vaginal mesh surgery exposed women to ‘unacceptable risks’

Women have been exposed to unacceptable risks through the use of vaginal mesh surgery, the government has acknowledged for the first time, as fresh evidence has revealed that thousands of women have suffered traumatic complications.

In a parliamentary debate on the use of the implants, Jackie Doyle-Price, junior minister at the Department of Health, said it was a “tragedy” that women who had put their trust in the medical establishment had “come out with the most debilitating injuries”.

“These products … should only be used as an extreme measure,” she addded. “We should be very concerned by the extent to which these were adopted.”

Previously, the department of health had stated that the benefits of vaginal mesh surgery outweighed the risks.

Labour’s Emma Hardy, who secured the parliamentary debate on the issue, led calls to suspend the use of surgical mesh and for the government to consider launching a full public inquiry, adding that doctors and patients had been “voting with their feet” on the surgery.

The Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle MP said: “During the last nine years the figures show the number of women having the procedure has fallen by 48%, which to me says an awful lot about what the doctors are thinking about this. These women were injured, these women were ignored, these women are the victims of a scandal.”

Hardy cited figures from an NHS Digital report published this week showing that for every 100 women who have a vaginal mesh procedure, there 79 are subsequent gynaecology outpatients within a single year.

She used the backbench business debate to call for Nice guidelines for mesh in stress-related urinary incontinence to be brought forward from 2019 to 2018, and for pelvic floor physiotherapy to be routinely offered on the NHS to all new mothers.

“There is also still no physiotherapy universally available for all new mothers as standard, as there is in France, to stop these problems before they even arise,” she said.

MPs heard a series of harrowing accounts of constituents who had suffered life-altering complications due to surgery, including women left suicidal, of mesh embedded in pelvic tissue “like barbed wire”, of organs removed due to damage, loss of sex lives and the psychological trauma of being dismissed by doctors.

Labour’s Sharon Hodgson described how her 70-year-old mother had struggled with pelvic pain and urinary infections for the past five years after having mesh surgery.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP and chair of the Health select committee, criticised “cavalier attitudes” to the adoption of medical implants and a “wild west” where mesh was aggressively marketed without having undergone clinical trials.

“Many of the women that I have met, as I say, have had profound, life-changing injuries and I think they are entitled, many of these women, to compensation,” she added.

Labour’s Owen Smith, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on surgical mesh, said there had been almost one million outpatient appointments linked to vaginal mesh, with costs to the NHS somewhere in the region of £250m.
A so-called “failure rate” of between 1% to 3% was not acceptable anyway, Mr Smith said, adding that the numbers “are far greater than that”.

Graph showing number of patients who went on to have the surgery reversed.

Government figures show that about 500 removal surgeries for vaginal mesh have taken place every year for the past decade. The initial keyhole surgery, usually takes less than half an hour and involves inserting a plastic mesh into the vagina to support the bladder, womb or bowel and pelvic floor muscles. However, reversing the procedure can involve open surgery that is risky and complex since the mesh becomes embedded in muscle and sometimes attached to pelvic organs.

The latest figures, published this week, imply much higher complication rates than those previously reported in both industry-funded trials and a 2014 government report assessing the risks and benefits of vaginal mesh, which estimated the removal rate for TVT at 0.9% and the rate of complications, such as pain, at below 1.5%.

Owen Smith MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on surgical mesh, said: “These statistics show that the scale and complexity of the problems associated with mesh is far greater than has previously been accepted.

The government has asked Baroness Julia Cumberledge to investigate concerns about vaginal mesh, in a review that will also look at the pregnancy test Primodos, and an epilepsy drug.

Vaginal mesh surgery exposed women to ‘unacceptable risks’

Women have been exposed to unacceptable risks through the use of vaginal mesh surgery, the government has acknowledged for the first time, as fresh evidence has revealed that thousands of women have suffered traumatic complications.

In a parliamentary debate on the use of the implants, Jackie Doyle-Price, junior minister at the Department of Health, said it was a “tragedy” that women who had put their trust in the medical establishment had “come out with the most debilitating injuries”.

“These products … should only be used as an extreme measure,” she addded. “We should be very concerned by the extent to which these were adopted.”

Previously, the department of health had stated that the benefits of vaginal mesh surgery outweighed the risks.

Labour’s Emma Hardy, who secured the parliamentary debate on the issue, led calls to suspend the use of surgical mesh and for the government to consider launching a full public inquiry, adding that doctors and patients had been “voting with their feet” on the surgery.

The Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle MP said: “During the last nine years the figures show the number of women having the procedure has fallen by 48%, which to me says an awful lot about what the doctors are thinking about this. These women were injured, these women were ignored, these women are the victims of a scandal.”

Hardy cited figures from an NHS Digital report published this week showing that for every 100 women who have a vaginal mesh procedure, there 79 are subsequent gynaecology outpatients within a single year.

She used the backbench business debate to call for Nice guidelines for mesh in stress-related urinary incontinence to be brought forward from 2019 to 2018, and for pelvic floor physiotherapy to be routinely offered on the NHS to all new mothers.

“There is also still no physiotherapy universally available for all new mothers as standard, as there is in France, to stop these problems before they even arise,” she said.

MPs heard a series of harrowing accounts of constituents who had suffered life-altering complications due to surgery, including women left suicidal, of mesh embedded in pelvic tissue “like barbed wire”, of organs removed due to damage, loss of sex lives and the psychological trauma of being dismissed by doctors.

Labour’s Sharon Hodgson described how her 70-year-old mother had struggled with pelvic pain and urinary infections for the past five years after having mesh surgery.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP and chair of the Health select committee, criticised “cavalier attitudes” to the adoption of medical implants and a “wild west” where mesh was aggressively marketed without having undergone clinical trials.

“Many of the women that I have met, as I say, have had profound, life-changing injuries and I think they are entitled, many of these women, to compensation,” she added.

Labour’s Owen Smith, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on surgical mesh, said there had been almost one million outpatient appointments linked to vaginal mesh, with costs to the NHS somewhere in the region of £250m.
A so-called “failure rate” of between 1% to 3% was not acceptable anyway, Mr Smith said, adding that the numbers “are far greater than that”.

Graph showing number of patients who went on to have the surgery reversed.

Government figures show that about 500 removal surgeries for vaginal mesh have taken place every year for the past decade. The initial keyhole surgery, usually takes less than half an hour and involves inserting a plastic mesh into the vagina to support the bladder, womb or bowel and pelvic floor muscles. However, reversing the procedure can involve open surgery that is risky and complex since the mesh becomes embedded in muscle and sometimes attached to pelvic organs.

The latest figures, published this week, imply much higher complication rates than those previously reported in both industry-funded trials and a 2014 government report assessing the risks and benefits of vaginal mesh, which estimated the removal rate for TVT at 0.9% and the rate of complications, such as pain, at below 1.5%.

Owen Smith MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on surgical mesh, said: “These statistics show that the scale and complexity of the problems associated with mesh is far greater than has previously been accepted.

The government has asked Baroness Julia Cumberledge to investigate concerns about vaginal mesh, in a review that will also look at the pregnancy test Primodos, and an epilepsy drug.