Elder Abuse

The prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated against elders is difficult to quantify. As with many other victims/survivors, elders often do not report sexual abuse or sexual assault. However, their reasons for not reporting are often more complex. It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect reported to authorities, about five more go unreported (1). Elder sexual violence victims may require specialized assistance; they often receive fewer services and interventions than younger victims.Worried older woman Many elders need the help of a care provider; and in many cases where an elder is sexually abused or assaulted, the perpetrator is the caregiver. In a study of elder female sexual abuse victims, 81% of the abuse was perpetrated by the victim’s primary caregiver (2). Survivors may be afraid of reporting a family member, losing the assistance of the caregiver, losing independence, or losing their home. Older adults can experience sexual violence in both institutional and residential settings.The physical impact for elders who experience sexual violence, especially regarding recovery, is often more traumatic. Elders are more at risk for people not believing them because of stereotypes about elders and perceived lack of mental competency.According to Census estimates, as of 2009, 19.6% of Maine’s population was 65 and older. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, 26.5% will be 65 and older, second only to Florida (3). National studies have found that people 50 and older make up 3% of rape/sexual assault victims (4). Unless something is done to prevent and increase awareness of elder sexual violence and abuse, as the elder population increases, so will instances of sexual violence and abuse perpetrated against them.Rape Response Services, along with sexual assault crisis and support centers statewide, is committed to expanding services for elder victims/services of sexual violence, from prevention, awareness, and intervention perspectives. You can call 1-800-310-0000 to find out more about our elder services, visit our What We Do page or email rrsinfo@penquis.org. MECASA (the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault) is part of Maine initiatives, including the Elder Abuse Task Force and the Elder Justice Partners, both committed to ending elder sexual violence in Maine. If you or suspect that someone you know is a victim of elder sexual abuse, please call Maine Adult Protective Services at 1.800.626.8404 (TTY 1.800.606.0215) or the statewide 24-hour, confidential sexual assault hotline at 1.800.871.7741 (TTY 1.888.458.5599).

1. The National Center on Elder Abuse at The American Public Human Services Association in Collaboration with Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study. Retrieved from www.aoa.gov/…/Elder…/Elder_Abuse/ docs/ABuseReport_Full.pdf
2. Ramsey-Klawsnik, H. (1991). Elder sexual abuse: Preliminary findings. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 3(3), 73- 90. doi:10.1300/J084v03n03_04
3. United States Census Bureau. (2004). State interim population projections by ages and sex. Retrieved from http:// www.census.gov/population/www/projections/projectionsagesex.html
4. Rennison, C.M. (1997). Bureau of Justice Statistics Special report: Age patterns of victims of serious violent crime. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=383