“I think part of what is so difficult, and has historically been so difficult, is for victims of domestic violence to communicate how afraid they are and how violent this person has been when no one’s watching....I think we have a tendency as a society as a whole to minimize this type of violence when we should be responding with a heightened level of concern...
Abuse occurs across the lifespan.
Typically, elder abuse is defined as abusive behaviors, perpetrated against someone age 60 or 65 and older. According to the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, there are 12,000 cases of elder abuse in Maine each year, only a fraction of which are reported. While elder abuse can be perpetrated by professional caretakers or others unrelated to the victim, the National Center On Elder Abuse reports that 90% of elder abuse is perpetrated by family members (mostly adult children and spouses)1. Women are more likely than men to experience abuse.2
Domestic violence in later life is a subset of elder abuse, in which an older adult is subjected to a pattern of coercive control and abuse by someone with whom he or she has an ongoing relationship. In many cases, this older adult has endured and survived many years of abuse and violence at the hands of their partner or spouse, as is the case in Martha’s Story.
Like many others who experience abuse, older people are often afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Older adults may reply upon adult children or other caregivers for everyday support and care, particularly around their finances; this can leave them vulnerable to exploitation or harm. Some family members and caretakers use emotional, psychological, financial or physical pressure to get what they want, and it may be particularly difficult for an older adult to acknowledge that a son, daughter or spouse is hurting them.
Are you wondering if what you are experiencing is abuse? Has a loved one or caretaker ever:
- Made you feel stupid?
- Taken your money without asking?
- Put you on an allowance?
- Neglected and abandoned you when you needed care?
- Refused to let you go out with friends?
- Said they were going to put you away?
- Threaten to leave you or get a divorce?
- Break your things?
- Withheld medicine?
- Made you feel frightened, ashamed, sad, or worthless?
- Hit, kicked, slapped or threatened you?
- Coerced or forced sexual activity?
You may have answered yes to some of these questions and still think, “It’s not that bad.” However, you should not have to feel scared, humiliated or controlled.
MCEDV member projects offer free confidential services for older adults experiencing abuse. Advocates are available to listen and support you. Call your local domestic violence resource center, or use the statewide helpline from anywhere in Maine to connect with local services: 1.866.834.HELP.
Are you unsure about calling a helpline, or wondering what it would be like to talk to an advocate? Read more about what it is like to call our 24-Hour Helpline.
Do you have a hearing impairment? Use the Maine Telecommunications Relay Service at 1.800.437.1220 for help connecting with an advocate.
1 National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington D.C.: Authors.
2 National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington D.C.: Authors