Maryann is 78 and living in her home with an abusive spouse. Maryann requires home health care during the day, and her husband provides her care throughout the night. Maryann confides in her home health care provider, Virginia, that her husband is abusive and that she needs help and would like to live in a safe place. Maryann says her husband pushes her down at night, and won’t help her get up. She has had to visit the emergency room several times due to injuries from these episodes; but always says she “just falls.” Maryann has no income independent from her spouse. Her children, although aware of the decades of abuse, are unwilling or unable to assist their mother in relocating to a safe place.
This scenario is real… and it is real in Fremont County. Domestic violence does not occur only to younger, underprivileged people, or even just older, underprivileged people. Domestic violence knows no age, sex, religious or socio-economic boundaries. As in all family violence, their abuse ranges from the obvious physical and economic abuse, to the less obvious social isolation and emotional abuse. The tragic news is that there are an estimated 200 to 250 incidents of domestic violence among seniors in Fremont County on an annual basis…and yet it goes virtually unreported.
We now know that there are unique factors that pose a barrier to these individuals reporting the incidents to then seek assistance. Some of the key factors that contribute to non-reporting are shame (i.e. older victims feels they “should know better), economic dependency, poor health, or they are “too old” to start over. But, it does not have to be that way.
The Fremont County Domestic Violence Coalition is ready and available to help both individual victims and also offers informational sessions to groups and organizations.
Author: Dee Hoza and Barb Topliss the District Attorney’s office