Dignity Denied: Older Adult Abuse Focus of Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Experts outline serious issue during news conference Sept. 28
For Immediate ReleaseContact: Kelly Taft, MAG, 602-452-5020
PHOENIX (Sept. 22, 2021) – Marie* was in her late 50s, working in healthcare caring for others, when friends introduced her to a man she called her “dream.” For more than a year, their relationship blossomed. Then, things began to change. He started demanding that she turn over money from her paycheck every week. If she didn’t comply or hadn’t earned enough, he threatened her. Soon the financial abuse evolved into emotional and physical abuse. He took her house and car keys, and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave.
“I was already financially, emotionally and spiritually dead. I was determined to live, and realized I needed to get out,” says Marie. It took extensive planning and support from family, but Marie was able to successfully leave her abuser. She left the state she was living in and landed in Arizona, where she found more formalized support through a domestic violence shelter and ultimately the Area Agency on Aging’s DOVES program for older adults. She is now employed and living in transitional housing.
Domestic violence can affect individuals of all ages, races, and incomes – including older adults. In fact, 1 in 10 older adults have experienced some form of elder abuse. To launch October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, public and private agencies are partnering to bring resources and attention to this serious issue.
“Dignity Denied: Older Adult Abuse” is the focus of a news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28. The event will be streamed live on MAG’s Facebook page. You can click on the banner link on MAG’s homepage at www.azmag.gov. The event is sponsored by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) in partnership with the Area Agency on Aging, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence, Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
MAG Chair John Giles, mayor of Mesa, says domestic violence is about power and control – whether physical, emotional, or financial. “This abuse robs seniors of not only their safety and security but of their dignity, vitality and sometimes even their lives,” says Mayor Giles. “By bringing local governments, law enforcement, the legal community, and service providers to the table, we hope to tap into their expertise with a goal of effective intervention and holding abusers accountable.”
El Mirage Councilmember Anita Norton is chair of the MAG Regional Domestic Violence Council. She says she is grateful for the level of collaboration that exists. “Having partners with wide-ranging expertise working together means a deeper, unified understanding of the challenges that exist,” she says. “A coordinated response strengthens our ability to help those who are experiencing domestic violence, in this case vulnerable older adults.”
Norton noted that the partners recently worked on two important projects, including the Vulnerable Adult Protocol and the Arizona Abuse in Later Life project. The Vulnerable Adult Abuse protocol was updated from a regional to a statewide focus, outlining best practices for law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services providers, and offender intervention providers. The Arizona Abuse in Later Life Program funds projects such as providing training to criminal justice professionals to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; providing cross-training opportunities to professionals working with older victims; and providing services for victims who are 50 years of age or older.
“We are not a throwaway to society,” says Marie. “We are smart and vibrant and we want to do things with our lives. We want to contribute.” Marie will share her story at the news conference in hopes of helping other older adults seek help. “Our dignity is not lost. It just needs to be restored,” she says.
*Full name withheld for safety considerations.
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