• Users Online: 879
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-77

Ageing agony: Rape against elderly women

Department of Criminology and Forensic Science, Dr. Harisingh Gour (Central) University, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Submission27-Mar-2021
Date of Decision01-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance31-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication22-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mamta Patel
Department of Criminology and Forensic Science, Dr. Harisingh Gour (Central) University, Sagar - 470 003, Madhya Pradesh
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiag.jiag_7_21

Rights and Permissions

Introduction: Rape is a type of sexual assault and brutal, demeaning, cruel act perpetrated without concern. Despite extensive research on rape, especially in India, there exists an important gap in knowledge around elderly victims. The rapist has been considered by many clinicians as the victim of uncontrollable urges or the recipient of a disordered personality. Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the situation during the commission of the crime and what was the relationship between the victim and the offender in committing the heinous crime. Methods: In this research, data were obtained from print media and electronic media from 2004 to 2018. A total number of 49 cases were found reported during this period of work. This study is based on quantitative findings using the unobtrusive method of content analysis. The elderly women aged 60 and above were taken for the study. Results: The results show that cruelty was involved in more than one-fourth of the cases. In most of the cases, victims were targeted as they were alone in their homes. In some cases, the offenders were found in a state of inebriation at the time of the crime. The crime was committed mostly by the impulsive type rapist. Conclusions: The findings challenge the social norms and have implications for future research, policy, and practice.

Keywords: Elderly, offender, rape, victim

How to cite this article:
Patel M. Ageing agony: Rape against elderly women. J Indian Acad Geriatr 2021;17:73-7

How to cite this URL:
Patel M. Ageing agony: Rape against elderly women. J Indian Acad Geriatr [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 6];17:73-7. Available from: http://www.jiag.com/text.asp?2021/17/2/73/329021

  Introduction Top

One of the most horrible types of abuse is elder sexual abuse. Elder abuse occurs when caregivers or others violate the trust they were given to care for an elderly person and take advantage of them sexually. Abusers target elderly people who they believe are vulnerable and easy targets.[1] There are many other reasons behind the heinous crime.

Earlier, there were no figures for the number of sexual attacks on the elderly because the National Crime Records Bureau did not categorize its rape statistics by age. Now, on the National Crime Records Bureau report in Crime in India, Crimes against senior citizens have been showing separately. As per the National Crime Records Bureau report in Crime in India, 79 cases of rape of the elderly were reported in the year 2018.[2]

Looking at newspaper news spanning over the past few years, it becomes clear that the rape of older women is a matter of concern and should be brought to the notice of all for preventive measures.

The magnitude of the rape problem in India

Rape remains a terrifying ordinary and widespread crime in India. The National Crime Records Bureau data show that 33,356 cases of rape were reported in 2018 – roughly 91 a day. This is despite the fact that the cases are grossly underreported. Victims are discouraged by the still hostile investigative system and tardy judicial process, and immense social shaming.[3]

The conviction rate for rape

The conviction rate for rape has moved sharply lower, from 36.5% in 1988 to 27.2% in 2018. Of course, this must be seen in the context of much higher reporting of rape today than 30 years back. But even in recent years, the conviction rate for rape has seen hardly any change, moving in a narrow range from 26.5% in 2010 to 27.2% in 2018.[4]

Sex offender registry

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court proposing the setting up of India's first sex offender registry. Government officials say names and details of offenders would be put on the registry only after they have been convicted. The details of the offenders will not be made public if the cases are in the trial and or in the appeal in a higher court. The database is likely to include personal details of the convicted including address, fingerprint, DNA samples, and identity information such as the Aadhaar Card that contains biometric information.[5] Sex offender registries (SOR) exist in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the Republic of Ireland. The United States is the only country with a registry that is publicly accessible; all other countries in the English-speaking world have sex offender registries only accessible by law enforcement.[6] The SORs effectively reduce recidivism or deterred new sexual offences.

Classification of rape patterns

Researchers in Massachusetts recognized that rape involves both sexual and aggressive features and categorize rapists according to their behavioral patterns.[7],[8]

The “Displaced aggression rapists” are primarily violent and aggressive in their attack, displaying minimum or total absence of sexual feeling. These men use the act of rape to harm, humiliate, and degrade the female. The victim is brutally assaulted and subjected to sadistic acts such as biting, cutting, or tearing.

In “compensatory rapists,” aggression is not a significant feature. The basic motivation is a desire to prove sexual prowess and adequacy. Compensatory rapists tend to be extremely passive, withdrawn, and socially ambush. Rapes or attempts to rape committed by them are an effort to compensate for their sense of inadequacy.

The “sexual-aggressive rapist” is the one in whom sexual and aggressive features seem to coexist at equal or near equal levels. For him to experience sexual arousal, it must be associated with violence and pain, which excite him.

The fourth type of rapist, “the impulsive type,” demonstrates neither strong nor aggressive features but engages in spontaneous rape when the opportunity presents itself. Rape is usually carried out in the context of another crime, such as robbery or burglary.

According to Jones, and Powell, older rape victims do not fit the “real rape” stereotype of a young attractive woman who is attacked because of her sexual desirability. Society tends to view older people as asexual, largely based on agist attitudes, which view old age as a process of decay, decline, and deterioration.[9]

Rape trauma syndrome (RTS) is the psychological trauma experienced by a rape victim that includes disruptions to normal physical, emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal behavior. The theory was first described by a psychiatrist, Burgess, and sociologist, Holmstrom in 1974.[10]

RTS is a cluster of psychological and physical signs, symptoms, and reactions common to most rape victims immediately following and for months or years after a rape. It has also been found that rape survivors are at high risk for developing substance use disorders, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.

Objectives of the study

  1. To know about the victim–offender relationship
  2. To examine the situation during the crime commission.

  Methods Top

The main aim of this research work was to make society aware of the sexual offence against elderly women. In this study, the cases of rape against elderly women were taken from static (print news) media and electronic media, i.e., Hindustan Times (Bhopal and Lucknow edition) and The Times of India (Bhopal and Lucknow edition). The research included news regarding sexually victimized elderly women from the newspapers and the e-media spanning fifteen years' time period from January 2004 to December 2018. Only the crimes committed in India and against the Indian elderly women had been chosen for this purpose. The secondary data were the main source of the study. Forty-nine cases of elderly victims of rape have been found reported both in print (static) media and electronic media and their contents have been analyzed systemically. Thus, the unobtrusive method of content analysis was used in this study. For this research work, different types of aspects such as the nature of the crime, victim–offender relationship, age of victim and offender, scene of crime, and law and order were taken for knowing the reality behind the criminality. The data were analysed and diagrammatically represented by the researcher with the help of Microsoft Excel.

  Results Top

[Figure 1], nature of crime, shows that the highest number of cases (59.18%) belong to only rape offences against the victims, whereas in other cases, twin crimes (sibling offences) were committed against the victims of rape (40.82%) and these are gang rape: 2.04%, robbery and gang rape: 2.04%, gang rape and murder: 4.08%, assault and rape: 4.08%, robbery and rape: 4.08%, robbery, rape and murder: 4.08%, rape and attempt to murder: 2.08%, and rape and murder: 18.36%. This study reveals that in more than one-fourth of the cases the victims were murdered after the commission of rape. The data also reveal that in twin crimes, murder was in the highest number which was committed against the elderly victims. It shows that brutality was used by the culprit. Case 1: The 35-year-old driver reportedly raped the 95-year-old woman when she was returning home in his auto from Bannerghatta road after visiting her relatives. The driver stopped the vehicle at a desolate stretch as the road was not motorable. Then, he dragged her into bushes and raped her. The incident came to light after a few passers-by found the woman in an unconscious state and raised an alarm.[11]
Figure 1: Nature in crime

Click here to view

[Figure 2], the victim's age, indicates that the highest number of victims were in the age group of 60–64 years (24.48%), 10.20% cases belonged to 65–69 year of age group, 18.36% cases of 70–74 years, 16.32% cases of 75–79 years, 12.24% cases of 80–85 years, 02.24% cases of 85–89 years, 08.16% case of 90–94 years, 02.04% cases of 95–99 years, 04.08% cases of 100–104, and 02.04% cases of 105 and above years of age group. Nearly one-third of the cases belonged to the age of 80 and above. Victims' age shows that above 105 years of age elderly were also victimized by the offenders. Case 2: 108-year-old woman was raped by son's friend at Bhopal. The offender was drunk, bolted the door from inside, and raped her. The victim's family members were out shopping.[12] Case 3: 100 years bedridden lady was allegedly raped by a man who barged into her house in a village.[13]
Figure 2: Victim's age

Click here to view

[Figure 3], age of the victims and offenders during the crime, compares the reality of crime. The age of the offenders proved that juvenile to adult offenders were involved in committing the offence. The diagram reveals that mostly young offenders were involved in committing the crime, i.e. offenders were younger than the victims. In this diagram, the age of the victim and offender has been compared to know if any correlation in the age of the victim and offender exists. There is no correlation between them.
Figure 3: Age of victim and offender

Click here to view

Crime scene

At the crime scene, the majority of the cases were found committed in the victim's home. As per the data analysis, 69.38% of cases were committed at the indoor crime scene, whereas 28.57% were at the outdoor crime scene. Only one case was found at the mobile crime scene. Case 4: 26-year acquaintance person visited the elderly woman's home and had dinner with them and consumed alcohol. Later that night, he took the woman out and got her drunk. He raped her and left her in an unconscious state.[14]

Victim offender relationship

In 61.22% of cases, offenders were known to the victims. In 38.77% of cases, offenders were unknown to the victims. The victim–offender relationship may contain the origin of victimization. In this study, 2.04% of offenders were family members, 4.08% were relatives of the victims, 55.10% were acquaintance persons, and 38.77% were strangers. Among the family members, the son was the culprit of the crime. In the case of relatives, brother-in-law and son-in-law were involved. Acquaintances and neighbors were the highest in number (26.52%), and others were villager, domestic helper, cook, son's friend, tenant's son, sanitation worker, employer's husband, rickshaw-puller, and laborer. In some cases, offenders were found in an inebriated state. “In metropolitan cities, domestic helpers were found as perpetrators in many crimes against the elderly.”[15] Case 5: The 81-year-old widow was alone at her home. The accused, who had been working for the victim over the last ten months, sexually assaulted the woman, killed her, then placed the body under a blanket on her bed and set it ablaze to destroy evidence. After this, he appropriated some valuables from the house.[16] Case 6: 65 years widow raped by her 40-year-old son in Jabalpur. Son asked her mother for water. As she went in, he also followed her and raped her. He has been booked for theft in the past. The victim then complained to the police.[17]

In [Figure 4], law and order against the criminals shows that at the time of news reported in print media and new media, 48.97% were registered, 30.61% were arrested, 10.20% were in judicial custody, and 10.20% cases were found punished under the section of 376 of Indian Penal Code. It was also found that under the punishment, 2.04% got 7 years of imprisonment and Rs. 4000 fine, 2.04% 10 years of imprisonment, 2.04% life sentence, and 4.08% got the death penalty. The result shows that action was taken quickly after reporting the case. Case 7: The victim had gone to attend nature's call. The offender raped her after beating her. Family members reported the matter to the police. Offender punished with imprisonment of 10 years under section 376, 323, and 506b of Indian Penal Code.[18]
Figure 4: Law and order

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

As per the tradition of society, aged people are given the position of prestige and power in the family. But nowadays, changes have been seen, and mostly elderly people are abused in many ways by known persons. This study is also similar to the study of Jeary, Ball, and Lea. In that study, most of the perpetrators were known to the elderly victims.[19],[20],[21]

The results of the study explain that in more than one-fourth of the cases, the victims were murdered after the commission of rape. This study also shows that sibling offences were committed against the victims of rape (40.82%). The same results were found in the study of Patel, i.e., 41.92% of twin offences were committed against elderly victims of rape.[22] About 30.80% of the elderly victims belong to the age group of 80 and above. Age is also one of the factors for the inability to resist the crime. This work probes that young offenders were involved in committing the crime, i.e., offenders were younger than the victims. The Groth and Jerry' research work shows that the most common age group for victims in reported cases was 60–69, whereas offenders were aged under 60, with those aged between 40 and 49 accounting for 42% of cases.[19],[23] Bows and Westmorland's study also shows that victims were most likely to be raped or sexually assaulted by someone younger than them.[24] The vast majority of offenders were aged under 60 (66%) and offenders aged between 40 and 59 accounted for 42% of cases. Victims, by contrast, were aged between 60 and 98, with the majority in their 60s and 70s.

As per the data analysis, 69.38% of cases were committed at the home where the homes are known as the safest place for the elderly. This study is similar to previous research in this area by Ball and Fowler and Lea et al.[20],[21] that the majority of rapes were perpetrated in the victim's home.

In some cases, offenders were found in an inebriated state during the crime commission. The result also shows that in only 10.20% of cases, offenders were punished under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, and the rest of the cases were in process.

  Conclusions Top

On the whole, elder sexual abuse is a very intricate problem as most of the offenders are known to the victims. It indicates that the family members, relatives, neighbors, and whom we trust for the protection and security of our life can also be involved in the heinous crimes. All things considered, women are not safe outside their homes and even inside their homes.

Overall, it may be said that women's rape is committed not only for sexual gratification but for humiliation and to show power over another human being. In this respect, the sexual offender is looking for two things mostly in his victims: Availability and vulnerability and these criteria fit in the elderly women. Abuse of the elderly is an ever-growing crime due to the fact that women who are living alone and widowed with cognitive deficits are dependent on their family members or others. In some cases, rape is not the primary focus of the offender, but many times, the offender commits another act such as robbery or is under the influence of intoxication.

A sluggish court system and few convictions are the important reasons for the increasing number of cases against elderly women. To maintain the dignity of elderly women, we need better law enforcement, speedier justice delivery, and mental assistance services, only then women can live in society without fear of crime.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Elder Sexual Abuse – Sexual Abuse in Nursingh Homes; 2015. Available from: https://www.nursinghomeabuseguide.org/sexual-abuse/. [Last accessed on 2021 Jul 21].  Back to cited text no. 1
Crime in India. National Crime Records Bureau. Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi. 2018;2:449-79.  Back to cited text no. 2
Nirbhaya Closed. The Times of India; 2020. p. 10.  Back to cited text no. 3
Conviction Rate in IPC Crimes at 50% for 1st Time Since 1988. The Times of India; 2020. p. 1.  Back to cited text no. 4
No Room for Mistakes. Hindustan Times; 2016. p. 8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sex Offender Registry; 2021. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_offender_registry. [Last accessed on 2021 Jul 10].  Back to cited text no. 6
Cohen M, Seghorn T, Calmas W. Sociometric study of the sex offender. J Abnorm Psychol 1969;74:249-55.  Back to cited text no. 7
Cohen ML, Garofalo R, Boucher R, Seghorn T. The psychology of rapists. Semin Psychiatry 1971;3:307-27.  Back to cited text no. 8
Jones H, Powell JL. Old age, vulnerability and sexual violence: Implications for knowledge and practice. Int Nurs Rev 2006;53:211-6.  Back to cited text no. 9
Burgess A, Holmström L. Rape trauma syndrome. J Psychiatry 1974;131:981-6.  Back to cited text no. 10
Banglore Horror 95 Year Old Woman Raped; 2014. Available from: http://www.daily.bhaskar.com/news/BAN-bangalore-horror-95-year-old-woman-raped-by-35-year-old-autoricksha-driver-near-4715712-NOR.html. [Last accessed on 2015 Jun 30].  Back to cited text no. 11
108 yr. Old Woman Raped by Neighbour. Hindustan Times; 2010. p. 1.  Back to cited text no. 12
100 yr. Old Dies After Rape in UP. The Times of India; 2017. p. 8.  Back to cited text no. 13
70 yr. Old Raped in Betul. The Times of India; 2018. p. 1.  Back to cited text no. 14
Patel M. Elder Sexual Abuse: Victims of Rape. Paper Presented at: The 3rd International Conference Geriatrics and Gerontology. New Delhi: Islamic Centre; 2015.  Back to cited text no. 15
81 yr. Old Raped, Burnt by Domestic Help. Hindustan Times; 2014. p. 16.  Back to cited text no. 16
Widow Raped by 40 yrs. Old Son. Hindustan Times; 2014. p. 3.  Back to cited text no. 17
10 yrs. Imprisonment for Raping Old Woman. Hindustan Times; 2004. p. 1.  Back to cited text no. 18
Jerry K. Sexual abuse and sexual offending against elderly people: A focus on perpetrators and victims. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 2005;16:328-43.  Back to cited text no. 19
Ball H, Fowler D. Sexual offending against older female victims: An empirical study of the prevalence and characteristics of recorded offences in a semi-rural English county. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 2008;19:4-32.  Back to cited text no. 20
Lea SJ, Hunt L, Shaw S. Sexual assault of older women by strangers. J Interpers Violence 2011;26:2303-20.  Back to cited text no. 21
Patel M. Crimes against the elderly. Indian J Gerontol 2010;24:395-402.  Back to cited text no. 22
Groth AN. The older rape victim and her assailant. J Geriatr Psychiatry 1978;11:203-15.  Back to cited text no. 23
Bows H, Westmorland N. Rape of older people in the United Kingdom: Challenging the real – Rape stereotype. Br J Criminol 2015;57:1-17.  Back to cited text no. 24


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded189    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal