According to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/index.html), sexual abuse is any sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not given freely or defined as unwanted sexual conduct against an aging senior generally over the age of 60 years. Employing different methods like coercing, force, etc. to get their way.
Elder sexual abuse is the most devastating of all the abuses directed to senior citizens.
This evil often takes place right under our noses and yet escapes recognition because of our aging loved ones’ physical and emotional conditions or our ignorance about the abuse.
Do you know that the victims’ conditions like dementia or other conditions render them vulnerable? They are unable to communicate that they have been sexually assaulted. This may be one of the reasons they are targeted in the first place.
This post aims to expose this evil by explaining the signs, prospective perpetrators; the methods they employ to get their way; and the likely place it occurs.
It will then help explain what has been done and achieved so far by concerned individuals and organizations in the battle against this evil.
Then actions from now on will be proposed.
All my research on elder sexual abuse showed that it is impossible to know the exact number of senior citizens suffering from the abuse.
The reasons for this unfortunate situation are simple. The most obvious is that the elderly are generally reluctant to report the abuse themselves. Why?
Because of fear of retribution as the report may get the abuser in trouble. Or most importantly, many lack the physical and/or cognitive ability to do so due to their conditions.
Also, lack of adequate training and or awareness on detecting the abuse may be another factor that may cause missing signs of elder abuse by caretakers or professionals working with aging seniors.
Despite these obstacles, some Organizations like the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) (pcar.org/about-us/about-pcar), that operates the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), which identifies, develops, and disseminates resources regarding all aspects of sexual violence prevention and intervention.
And also, PCAR works in partnership, and a collaborative effort with the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAV) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA)–PreventConnect have come up with the following statistics:
- Women are 6 times more likely to be victims of elder sexual abuse.
- Only about 30 percent of elderly victims of sexual abuse over the age of 65 actually report the authorities’ abuse.
- About 83 percent of elder sexual abuse victims reside in an institutional care center, such as nursing homes.
- About 27 percent of elder sexual abuse victims occurred in either the elder’s own home or the perpetrators’ home.
- About 80 percent of the time, the perpetrator of elder sexual abuse was the elder’s caregiver.
- About 76 percent of elder sexual abuse victims have had their incident witnessed by another.
- According to the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, about 67 percent of elderly sexual abusers were family members.
Also, from WHO (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse)
- Rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.
- Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.
- Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly aging populations.
- The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.
As stated above by PCAR, the signs of elder abuse may be subtle. With the little cooperation from the elders themselves due to their medical conditions that cause memory loss, confusion, or communication problems, it is easy to miss the signs.
This calls for adequate training and awareness to recognize elder abuse incidents.
Secondly, as the daughter or son taking care of your aging parent, there are certain things you can do to recognize when sexual abuse has taken place.
Some of these are a regular examination of your patient, looking for mood changes or unexplained injuries. During this exercise, you may see a pelvic injury or notice that your loved one has problems walking or sitting.
Some caretakers have reported that on further examination as to why, they discovered an onset of sexually transmitted disease, torn, bloody, or stained underpants.
Even during the examination, some have noticed bruises of the genitals or inner thigh. You can see how crucial is a regular examination of your loved one.
You will realize there is a problem when your aging dad or mon, without any reason, started to withdraw from or even become afraid of people.
Encourage the older person to be forthcoming with anything that happens to him.
As stated earlier, not much is known about elder sexual abuse because research is limited. Because of their disabilities or fear of reprisal, many aging seniors are unwilling to cooperate with investigators.
But there is a consensus that most of the incidences occur in nursing homes than in a senior citizen or friends’ homes.
The perpetrators are: in the nursing homes – the healthcare workers; in the aging seniors’ home – live-in helpers and nurses, friends, or family members.
The shocking aspect of this situation is that the offenders are generally entrusted to take care of and be alone with the patient. These were according to a report by the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study (NEA).
Another unique aspect of elders’ sexual abuse occurs when patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias develop heightened sexual urges because of their disease.
This can be extremely disruptive or discouraging to whoever is caring for such a patient.
Have you heard of some Alzheimer’s Disease patients or any dementia may develop a heightened sexual urge? This is why caretakers are advised to watch carefully for side effects of drugs or mood changes in their patients.
Methods Employed By Preditors
A criminally minded predator takes advantage of the conditions of the older adult. For example, aging senior suffering from any dementia may not remember or is always confused.
Who will believe what he or she may say when she reports of sexual abuse?
An older adult is weak and feeble; any preditors can force him/herself on their victim with little resistance. Some criminals may use deceitful and unwelcome advances or even drugging the older person to get their way.
Making unwanted or unwelcome suggestive verbal sexual advances is another method they use. Even some elders may be in such a shape to lack the capacity to say yes or no.
Where It Occurs
The two main places elder sexual abuse takes place are in the elder or eldercare facility’s home. There is no reliable evidence it occurs elsewhere, like the parks or meeting areas.
Elder sexual abuse has become a worldwide pandemic affecting many homes with aging parents. These older adults are people – our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, etc.
Sexual abuse on one is abuse on all. And it concerns all of us.
The major tool in the fight against elder sexual abuse is AWARENESS. Why? Because if you don’t know what it is or how to recognize it, then it could take place right under your nose and yet escape notice.
Research has shown where and among whom it is most prevalent, i.e., in the homes of senior citizens or elder care facilities (all in the neighborhood), and by people these elders trusted to take of them.
Therefore, friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones should be on the front line, providing much-needed supports like a safe environment, including keeping a watchful eye and getting involved in the aging people’s affairs.
Some advanced nations like the US have created some departments to handle the affairs of the aging seniors: like the welfare department that is empowered to provide the legal, financial, and housing support for the elderly; the department of health and human services to deal with the healthcare of the aging population, etc.
No matter what source or how little, the combined contributions will make a big difference in the end. Remember that friends and family are not alone in this fight.
Do you know that a day, June 15, known as the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, has been dedicated to raising awareness of the abuse on the aging population?
“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). is about coming together to reaffirm that older adults as equal members of our communities, entitled to all the same dignity, rights, and security that each of us would expect at any age.”
It was dedicated by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127.
On this particular day, special materials and articles on the subject are produced and distributed, interviews are granted, and speeches are also held.
We can get involved in or join this organization by supporting research and education. These efforts will prevent, detect, and provide intervention promptly and ultimately end elder sexual abuse (elder abuse).
If interested, please contact elderabuse.org.
Elder sexual abuse (elder abuse) is the most devastating of all the elder abuse.
Think about it for a moment – somebody taking advantage of the victim’s frailty, the effects of drugs or the disability itself, to force himself on desperate seniors that need our help, support, and protection.
How would you feel if your elder mom or dad is so violated?
Because the aging population is growing much faster than any other group, solutions to elder sexual abuse must be found; we will have a catastrophe on our hands.
Research has identified that caregivers, including loved ones of the aging person, are involved in these heinous crimes. And perpetrators target both home-bound seniors and those in elder care facilities.
Is it not heart-breaking to know that even the senior citizens’ loved ones and relatives on whom he relies for help, and security, would participate in this evil?
But thank goodness, the major hindrance to the solution is slowly but steadily melting away.
Now, concerned citizens, organizations, including the United Nations, have mounted a serious campaign on awareness, culminating in creating the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
To join, find out their mode of operation, or contribute to the furtherance of the organization’s cause, please go to elderabuse.org.
It is incumbent on us to create a world in which aging seniors are seen and treated as humans, a world free of elder abuses and exploitation, and where they are allowed to live in dignity and where aging is seen as a good thing and accepted as a part of the natural life cycle.
Humans start life at conception, then become babies to adults and finally to ripe old age, after which the flame of life is extinguished. Therefore old age should be respected and celebrated.
Finally, we should understand that all about elder sexual abuse (elder abuse) is infancy. It was not non-existence in the past. Rather it was little known and difficult to detect. But with the current massive campaign on awareness and on many nations’ focus, things are moving in the right direction.
Thanks for the time to read this post. And I hope you learned “a thing or two.” Please do me the honor of giving me your opinion of this article.
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