What can I do?
It is important to understand the needs the victim has in order to present real options for safety. For instance, if you help the victim remove the abuser from the home but do not plan for assistance: getting groceries, getting to medical appointments, or other things the abuser provided the victim, they may be more likely to ask the abuser back or suffer from self-neglect.
What if someone I know is being abused but they won’t make their abuser leave?
As with victims of domestic violence of all ages and abilities, 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 face additional barriers:
- They may not identify themselves as "abused." Images on TV and movies often show abused women as younger women with children. This may imply that domestic violence doesn't occur in mid or later life.
- Older women may just accept the abuse since gender roles, expectations, and acceptable behavior were different many years ago.
- They may feel shame and be afraid of what will happen to them if they report abuse.
- They may fear that they'll have to leave their homes or be placed in supportive housing.
- Some victims fear having their decision-making rights taken from them by service providers.
- Financial worries can be huge. Some older abused people have no formal education or money of their own. Many with health problems are afraid of losing insurance if they are on their abusers' policies or don’t know how to navigate the medical system alone. They may be afraid of not being able to get a job or be unable to work at all and feel trapped.
- Family members and adult children may be a factor. Some adult children will support their parent and help in any way they can if they are being abused. Others create barriers by encouraging their parent to stay thinking that if they leave, they will become responsible for their abusive parent. Some side with the abuser, believing the victim tore the family apart.
- Life stresses can feel overwhelming. Some victims may have never lived on their own away from partners or the family they were born into. They may know no other life.
- There may be strong cultural or religious beliefs that keep them from getting help. Changes such as the death of family or friends, birth of grandchild, retirement, and moving may all also play a part in a victim's decisions.
Some older people are abused by other family members - often their children or grandchildren. In these cases, many of the same dynamics exist as with intimate partner violence. These factors can be even worse if older victims are becoming less able to take care of themselves. Additionally, it may be incredibly hard for a victim to see that their own child is choosing to hurt them. They may never choose to have their child arrested or force them to move out.
How to Safety Plan
Sometimes the best thing you can do to help a victim of abuse who is not ready or able to leave the situation is to help them consider their options and plan for their safety.
Domestic violence safety planning is an ongoing process of considering and selecting options that may help a victim remain safer– it means helping a victim creatively brainstorm their options and the possible advantages and consequences of each.
A decision to stay may be a safety strategy and making a plan in case things get worse may help. For example, if a victim was living with an abusive family member or caretaker you may discuss with them ideas such as:
- calling the police
- petitioning for an order of protection (a Family Court option if the relationship between the abuser is a blood relative, current or former spouse, or current or former intimate partner)
- speaking with a domestic violence advocate
- making a referral to your local Protective Services for Adults
- hiding an emergency phone to call 911