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Domestic Violence Among Older Americans


When we think of our grandparents, many of us envision a comfortable older couple enjoying a glass of lemonade on the front porch while rocking in their rocking chairs.  Of course, that’s a stereotype that is comfortable and pleasant, but one that couldn’t be further from reality for many older folks. Sadly, older generations suffer from episodes of domestic violence (DV) just like the rest of us do, but it is often not recognized and dealt with.

A Serious Issue 

Tragically, older Americans experience DV in many of the same ways that young couples do. While the underlying issues relating to control and dominance run through all cases of DV, the actual symptoms may vary.  Victims may be bullied in all kinds of ways:

  • Intimidation and threats;
  • Isolation;
  • Emotional manipulation and shame;
  • Physical abuse;

Financial control.

It Can be Worse for the Elderly 

Because older people may be dealing with mental and/or physical impairments already, abuse can be easier to exact and more difficult to recognize.  And there’s another reason addressing this abuse may be difficult: members of older generations may have different views about it. In fact, one study conducted by ElderSafe discovered that for every case of domestic violence that was reported by an older adult, a whopping 23 cases go unreported. Why won’t the elderly reach out when they are in these situations?

  • Services addressing DV were not available when they married, so many victims aren’t aware that they can get help nowadays;
  • Domestic violence wasn’t talked about openly years ago;
  • Many victims don’t even realize that what they are experiencing is abuse, particularly if it’s not physical harm;
  • Many victims have lived with abuse for so long that they believe it’s just the way marriage is.
  • Some victims lack the decision-making capacity necessary to escape the problem.

Understanding Elderly Victims

 It’s often difficult for anyone to terminate an unhealthy relationship.  The elderly are no exception:

  • In many situations victims want to have a relationship with their spouse or partner—frequently a caregiver; they simply want an end to the abuse.
  • Many factors play into staying with an abuser, including finances, religion, and cultural reasons.
  • A reluctance to discuss personal problems can be part of a generational issue. Victims may fear judgment from younger individuals who look at these problems from a different standpoint.
  • It’s possible victims have attempted to leave the situation previously and they were unsuccessful, leaving them reluctant to try again.

It’s Not Okay 

It is never okay for partners to manipulate and abuse one another. The experienced Miami domestic violence attorneys at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos understand this and will put in the time and respect necessary to assist survivors of domestic violence as they access the legal and other resources they need.  To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our Miami office today.

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