Every year on June 15, communities around the world come together on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) to promote understanding and increase awareness about the abuse and neglect experienced by millions of older adults each year. Commemorating WEAAD is an opportunity for those of us working with the hundreds of thousands of older Americans who experience physical, sexual, psychological, and financial exploitation to recommit ourselves – and our communities – to ending abuse of older Americans nationwide.
We know that elder abuse is a widespread problem and can occur in any community. A 2010 survey estimated that 11% of Americans experience elder abuse each year. Although anyone can be a victim – regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental capacity, and physical ability – the vast majority of victims are women. Sadly, older individuals are usually abused by their spouses, partners, family members, and caregivers. Victims may refrain from seeking help or calling the police due to shame or embarrassment because the abuse was committed by someone they are close to and trust. Because of this and the many obstacles all victims of abuse face, cases of elder abuse are underreported. For every one case of elder abuse that comes to the attention of a responsible entity, another twenty-three cases never come to light.
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) remains committed to enhancing the criminal justice response to elder abuse and expanding available resources to support victims and survivors. Since 2010, 36 communities have received funding through OVW’s Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life Program. Our grantees represent the diversity of American communities; from large, urban communities, like Los Angeles to small cities like Rochester, NY and tribal communities like Nez Perce, ID. The Abuse in Later Life Program has made it possible for thousands of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals who work with older victims to receive vital training on how to recognize and address elder abuse. Abuse in Later Life grantees have provided victim centered services to hundreds of older victims and they have collaborated with project partners to enhance their communities’ response to elder abuse by working together to enhance victim safety and offender accountability.
As the percentage of Americans over the age of 50 continues to grow, elder abuse and abuse in later life may become more prevalent. We need to continue to work to raise awareness of elder abuse in our communities, acknowledge that abuse can happen to anyone – regardless of age – and resolve to come together to end elder abuse.
Information and resources on elder abuse is available through the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). Additional information on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day can be found on the Administration for Community Living website.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation visit NCEA’s State Resources webpage or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).