October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (DVAM.) Communities and advocacy organizations across the country connect with the public and one another throughout the month to raise awareness about the signs of abuse and ways to stop it, and to uplift survivor stories and provide additional resources to leaders and policymakers. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another partner. This kind of abuse affects everyone – men, women, and children of all races, religions, and cultures – without prejudice.

How many older Americans are abused?

Approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Who are the abusers of older adults?

Abusers are both women and men. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.3 Two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.

What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?

Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease ) are two factors. Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence also occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.

Help prevent domestic violence

To help prevent domestic violence, it is important to recognize the warning signs. Signs often begin subtly and worsen over time. While not all-inclusive, the following list may indicate potential signs of domestic violence.

  • Isolation – Permission is needed before making plans or speaking to friends and family members. Victims may be forced to quit their jobs or drop out of school.
  • Low Self-Esteem – Feeling deserving of the abuser’s violence, accepting fault for, and making excuses for their partner’s behavior.
  • Unexplained Injuries – Bruises, cuts, scrapes, or even broken bones that are blamed on clumsiness or are in multiple stages of healing.
  • Depression or Anxiety – Persistent feelings of hopelessness, fear of angering their partner, and fear of repercussions for seeking help.
  • Neglect – Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
  • Financial Abuse – Sudden changes in financial situations

If you are concerned that someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends the following approach:

  • Express your concerns to your loved one in a gentle and non-judgmental way.
  • Encourage participation in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
  • Encourage outreach to people who can provide help and guidance, such as the phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (7233), TTY 800-787-3224.
  • Continue to show your support regardless of the decisions made by your loved one.
  • Call the Dane County Adult Protective Services Helpline at (608) 261-9933 to report suspected abuse or neglect of adults who are age 60 and older. This includes any physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect by others or self-neglect. If desired, your call can be anonymous.
This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.