Recently 23 Bruises: The Lisa King Story, was presented to a group of about 200 at the Sun City Auditorium at a senior center in Oro City, AZ. The message was well-received and there were immediate comments and questions from the audience. As I looked over the crowd, I sadly wondered how many of those listeners were in a violent relationship, how many had suffered in silence for years because they didn’t know or were afraid to even think about their situations.
When considering problems in our society, one most overlooked group is abused, elderly people. We all know what Domestic Violence refers to, but how many of us think of our grandmother, mother, dad or elderly aunt? While the numbers are difficult to quantify, studies report that elderly people are victims just the same as younger people; one problem is they might just not ever mention it to us.
Yes, physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. The same issues exist with elderly people and especially with elderly women, as exists with younger people. To complicate matters, they may have some additional deterrents – recognizing and dealing with the issues. They may have been taught that violence was not a crime, and no police protection was available. They can feel shamed that a failed marriage can cause victims to stay in the relationship. A real deterrent faced by many victims is the legal process itself. Many times the huge amount of paperwork required by the victim, in the form of photos, witnesses, written statements causes the victim to feel like the accused. No one is prepared for that, especially the elderly.
Elderly women may not consider themselves a victim since even many health care workers do not consider elderly people victims. The list of reasons to stay goes on to include, physical disabilities of either partner, language barriers, social pressures, religious pressures, disabilities or physical frailty, educational level, financial insecurity, and on and on. So with the myriad of reasons, too many to even list, no wonder the elderly abuse still exists.
In our minds, the burning question remains. That question was put before the group at our annual Gala event this year by one of FTH Board member, and a domestic violence survivor, In essence, he said, “After spending a long time pondering the question, I still cannot understand why an abuser abuses victims the way they do. What makes them do that?” Why in the world would anyone intentionally hurt another person?”
Since, forever, men have seized the dominant role and rule the relationship. cattle, horses, sheep, women, and children have been considered chattel. Items to be owned with no rights. That is the mindset that exists for many elderly, and it has to change.
That is the challenge that we a Fix the Hurt is taking on.
- Convince the health care workers to be more aggressive in evaluating the potential of existing abuse.
- Convince elderly people there is no shame in leaving an abusive partner. Attack the age-old theory that anyone belongs to another person, especially the abuser.
We will work closely with organizations like DOVE, with law enforcement officers and prosecutors to help speed up the legal process and stop making the victim feel treated like the accused.
John and Linda King