Domestic violence is a very serious issue and it is prevalent among people that some may not always consider. Not only is it relevant among senior citizens, but it may be especially difficult to recognize than among others. Perhaps, it presents itself in ways that are, mistakenly, considered endearing such as excessive bickering. Maybe it has been going on for so long because it has been hidden so well. Maybe control and dominance is easily disguised because it is written-off as the help a victim needs in their old age. Whatever the reason, it is a real thing among the elderly and deserves just as much attention as any other demographic.
Although signs of abuse are sometimes present from the onset of a relationship, some abuse does not surface in a relationship for years, making it harder to confront and deal with. Some victims feel trapped because it didn’t start until after they were married, or even years after that. Abuse that starts late can also be easier to ignore because there may be a deeper bond between partners by the time it begins and it is difficult to imagine it is really happening. Domestic violence among the elderly can become an especially serious problem because the victim is not as physically or mentally able to stand up to it. Furthermore, as education and understanding is more widespread nowadays through platforms like social media, an older person may not have the same resources to understand what they are doing or what is being done to them.
Abusive behaviors include, but are not limited to:
Control (how the other person spends their time, people they see, how they spend money, etc.)
Humiliation (embarrassing the other person or sharing personal information with others)
Neglect (intentionally failing to help with the care needs of the other person)
Blame (accusing the other person of things out of their control)
Physical Abuse (striking, slapping, kicking, etc.)
In the fight to end domestic violence, it is important to assess, not only whether you may be a victim, but whether you may be a perpetrator, as well. Too often is crime dehumanized and the emphasis of a problem is placed upon victims. Be certain that you are not exhibiting any of these abusive behaviors to others. Pay attention, not only to the people you know who may be victims of domestic violence, but those who might be abusers.
Some experts are hesitant to make the distinction between domestic violence and elder abuse. Because domestic violence among senior citizens can be categorized as “elder abuse”, they believe that the two should be viewed as one-in-the-same and be dealt with in the same manner.
However, there are opponents to this thinking. Some believe that both “domestic violence” and “elder abuse” deserve to be viewed separately and to group any type of abuse among senior citizens under the umbrella of “elder abuse” is not only ageist, but dangerous because this thinking may disempower the reality of the differences between them. Different types of abuse such as domestic, sexual, economic, emotional, etc. can have vastly different sources and by treating them all the same based solely on the age of the person discredits the individualism they deserve in order to deal with them properly.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are many fantastic and important resources online to learn more about the realities behind domestic violence and the actions you can take if you or someone you know may be a perpetrator or a victim of this horrible crime. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 1(800)-799-SAFE.