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Record ID: 897856fe-54fb-413b-97f9-4e508750a2bb
Type: Journal Article
Title: Aged care nurses’ perception of unwanted sexual behaviour in Australian residential aged care services
Authors: Smith, Daisy E.
Ibrahim, Joseph E.
Wright, Megan T.
ANRA Topic: Sexual violence and sexual harassment
ANRA Population: People with disability
Older women
Categories: ANROWS Completed Register of Active Research projects
Year: 2021
Publisher: Wiley
Citation: Volume 41, Issue 1
Abstract:  Objectives
To explore aged care nurses’ awareness and experience of unwanted sexual behaviour (USB) in residential aged care services (RACS).

An anonymous online questionnaire was administered to an opportunistic sample of RACS nurses enrolled to complete an e-learning course in Australia. From the 167 participants who expressed interest to enrol, 129 were eligible and 53 returned completed consent forms.

46/53 responded of which most were females (41/45, 91.1%). Few respondents reported resident-resident USB (<35%) or staff-resident USB (<22%) happened once a year. Most respondents had not been informed by a resident of USB (>75%) or had personally reported USB within their internal reporting system (>77%). Respondents were also unaware if their facility had lodged an incident report to the regulator or law enforcement authorities within the past 12 months (34/46, 73.9%). Finally, most considered there to be no barriers to reporting USB (35/46, 77.8%).

Respondents’ awareness and estimates of USB directed at residents were much lower than known national prevalence rates. This lack of awareness could be a substantive barrier to recognition and optimal management of this form of abuse.

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The Health Law and Ageing Research Unit is the only group in Australia with a dedicated, coordinated and multidisciplinary approach with technical expertise in aged care, law, health care, public health, injury prevention and public policy focused on residential aged care services (RACS).

It is estimated that over 50 incidents of sexual assault occur in aged care each week nationally. Findings from the recent Royal Commission into Australian RACS highlighted that there is not only a limited understanding of unwanted sexual behaviour (USB) in RACS but that there also are substantial gaps to prevent and manage USB in RACS.


This study aimed to develop, implement and evaluate an online educational course for aged care nurses on detecting, managing and preventing USB between residents in Australian RACS.


An anonymous, online, cross-sectional population survey was provided to all participants who were enrolled to complete an intervention educational online course, "Preventing unwanted sexual behaviour in residential aged care". After course completion, participants completed a post-intervention survey which tested any change to knowledge, attitude, awareness, experience of and behaviour towards USB in RACS. The post-test instrument also tested participant satisfaction with the course structure and content.


To our knowledge, this is the first developed and evaluated course specific to USB in RACS for aged care nurses in Australia. Our course was very well received, with participants believing it to be engaging, relevant and practical. Results suggest that online USB in RACS education is feasible. Results further indicate the developed course holds promising potential as a valuable training tool. More research is needed to reveal if such training improves specific resident outcomes.


Department of Health and Human Services, Seniors, Ageing and Aged Care Branch, Health and Wellbeing Division, Victoria and Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University


April 2020


June 2021

Appears in Collections:Journal Articles

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