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Services for Older Victims of Abuse

By Bonnie Brandl, NCALL Director and Laura Mosqueda, M.D. NCEA Director

October 01, 2015

During the NCEAs Countdown to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we published a blog on the topic of Victim Services. While many in the “elder abuse” world have one interpretation of the term, many in the “domestic violence” world have a different interpretation. This is a reminder of how misunderstanding arises despite the best of intentions. As the nation turns its attention to matters surrounding domestic violence in the month of October, we thought we would like to explore this issue further. Laura Mosqueda, M.D. Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, and Bonnie Brandl, MSW, Director of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life, examine the issue.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. So it’s a good time to stop and take a moment to thank victim advocates for their crucial work. Within the field of domestic violence, the role of a victim advocate is to listen to the victim’s perspective and offer information, resources, and assistance. An advocate and the victim work together to implement strategies and to modify plans as the victims’ lives and circumstances change. Their perspective is often vital to an effective collaborative response involving a variety of other professionals each of whom brings their expertise to these situations.

In the domestic violence vernacular, the term “victim services” has a particular meaning which is currently utilized by the federal government offices that administer the Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Office on Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women provide funding for activities such as crisis intervention and counseling, support groups, therapy/treatment, information and referral, emergency shelter and transitional housing, hotlines, legal advocacy, economic advocacy, emergency financial assistance, culturally specific services, support within the criminal justice system, personal advocacy and case management.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity to remind those who work primarily in domestic violence to include older adults in their thinking. Similarly, those of us who work primarily in elder abuse must remember that the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual assault, unfortunately, are not age-limited.

Here are some ways we can work together based on common ground:

  • Domestic violence and sexual assault advocates can enhance their responses to the unique needs of older victims.
  • Elder justice professionals can reach out to domestic violence and sexual assault advocates to enrich the responses to older victims.
  • Victim service providers and policy makers can consider the needs of older victims when distributing educational materials and enhancing programming.
  • VOCA administrators can provide significant and proportionate funding for elder abuse victims.

Let us collaboratively, no matter our discipline or philosophy, work together to improve the quality of life of older victims. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a good time to do a gut check and ask ourselves: what’s one more thing I could be doing to prevent, ameliorate, and care for older victims of domestic violence?

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