By Paul Troy, Senior Crime Victim Advocate
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, we’d like to focus attention on a large group of victims often unseen and unserved in our community — our seniors.
The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse.” Over time, perpetrators use several tactics to ensnare their victims and prevent them from leaving the abusive relationship. These tactics include, but are not limited to, isolation, verbal threats and abuse, intimidation, financial control, manipulation, and physical violence.
Kentucky state law recognizes two classes of domestic violence perpetrators: intimate partners (spouse/ex-spouse, dating partners, people who have children in common) or members of the victim’s immediate family (adult children and grandchildren). Of the seniors that ElderServe’s crime victim advocates serve, approximately 80% are abused by a family member rather than an intimate partner.
Even though Kentucky law recognizes family violence as a form of domestic violence, the state’s network of domestic violence shelters and service providers do not serve this population. This means that a grandmother who is being threatened, financially exploited, and beaten by her grandson cannot go to a shelter for safety, she cannot attend support groups, and no advocate will be called to the emergency room when she is injured.
This glaring gap in service leaves seniors across the state vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, injury, and even death. Studies show that seniors who are abused have a 300% higher risk of premature death than those who are not abused. The estimated national financial cost of abuse is staggering—over $8.2 BILLION annually. Those costs are likely to increase, as our nation’s population of people 85 and older is expected to more than double by 2040.
But there is hope for Jefferson County seniors experiencing family abuse. Advocates with ElderServe’s Crime Victim Services arrange for emergency shelter and provide legal information, safety planning, transportation, and court advocacy. In partnership with Jefferson County’s Family Court clerks, ElderServe is even able to assist home-bound seniors with obtaining a protective order over the phone.
And even though October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, our crime victim advocates work year-round to help protect victims and educate the public. If you’d like for someone to speak to a group about recognizing and preventing elder abuse – or have concerns that an older adult you know is being abused, please call us at 502.736.3829.