Older Victims of Domestic Violence
Older people can be victims of different types of abuse, including domestic violence. Some people have been with the same abusive partner for many years. The abuse may have started while they were dating, first married, living together, or during pregnancy. Or, it may have started or gotten worse later in the relationship. Others are starting new relationships following a death or divorce and their new partner is abusive.
As with victims of domestic violence of all ages, separating from the abuser is not always the safest or best option. There are many factors to consider when deciding what to do. Older victims of domestic violence have these additional barriers:
- You may not identify yourself as “abused.” Images on TV and movies often show victims as younger women with children. This may imply that domestic violence doesn’t occur in mid or later life.
- You may feel that you are trapped and must stay with an abuser because of society’s expectations of how women should behave, especially years ago.
- You may feel shame and be afraid of what will happen to you if you report abuse. You may fear that you’ll have to leave your home or be placed in a nursing home. Some people fear having their decision-making rights taken from them by service providers.
- You may be concerned about finances and health insurance.
- You may worry that your family members and adult children will not believe you or support your decisions. Some adult children encourage the abused parent to stay because they do not want to become responsible for either parent.
- You may feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting over. Some victims have never lived on their own.
- Your cultural or religious beliefs may make it difficult to seek help.
Some older people are abused by other family members – often their children or grandchildren. In these cases, many of the same issues exist as with partner violence. These factors can be even worse if the older person is becoming less able to take care of themselves.
Under New York State law, you can get an order of protection from Family Court if you are in an intimate relationship with an abuser or if you are being abused by a family member. See "The Police and Courts" section of this booklet for more information on this and other legal options.
Resources are available for older victims of all crimes, including domestic violence. For information about elder abuse and domestic violence, call the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800- 942-6906. If you need protection or know someone who does, call your local Adult Protective Services office within the Department of Social Services. The number can be obtained by calling 1-800-342-3009 (press option 6) or visit http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/localdss.asp.