It’s an Ugly Reality
Author: Lane Keating, Oasis Senior Advisors Rochester
Domestic abuse is certainly not new. It’s probably been around since the beginning of time. However, the times they are a changing! The subject, which was once taboo, is now being discussed openly in the hopes of getting the word out that abuse of any kind is not acceptable and there are services available to help.
A vast number of older abused women would probably even be hard pressed to acknowledge that they are being abused. Many feel that if they’re not being physically accosted then there is no abuse. The concept of verbal, emotional, and even financial abuse is foreign to them.
So, what is domestic abuse? What may begin as physical abuse can often take on different forms:
- Belittling or embarrassing you in public or private
- Controlling who you can speak with (including family members) and where you can go
- Preventing you from working, volunteering, or socializing
- Taking charge of your finances (and yes, stealing your money) and even taking control of your property
- Making decisions that directly impact you without your input
- Threatening to leave you
While older men can certainly be victims of elder abuse, domestic abuse in older women is more prevalent. The sad truth is that even when signs of abuse are evident, they are more likely to be ignored. Health care professionals often attribute signs of physical or emotional abuse to aging rather than an abusive relationship. They also may attribute the abuse to a partner’s deteriorating health condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s without offering support to the victim. Additionally, law enforcement officials may choose to ignore abuse because they see the abuser as a lower risk factor or unfit for the penal system.
What can be done to shine a brighter light on the problem of domestic abuse?
- Be on the lookout for indications of abuse. A victim might suddenly become quiet when the abuser enters the room. Bills are not being paid even though all indications are that there should be sufficient funds. Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, and broken bones or other injuries that happen repeatedly. In many cases, the victim is reluctant to see a doctor. Abuse victims often act afraid or frightened and may even withdraw or lose interest in things that they formerly enjoyed.
- Speak up! Even if you have no proof but suspect abuse you have an obligation to investigate further. If you feel the senior is in imminent danger, call 911. If you’re not sure what’s going on a call to Adult Protective Services is in order. Let the senior know that you’re there to help them if they should need it.
Domestic abuse is insidious and takes many forms. It strikes all ages, sexes, races, and economic classes without discrimination. Be on the lookout and if you see something, say something!