On October 1, 2013, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) held its first Forum on Polyvictimization in Later Life. The event in St. Paul, Minnesota was attended by elder abuse experts from around the country. This Examiner had the honor of being invited to participate.
The team solicited research and practice examples from a range of experts. The Oct 1 Forum deepened the team’s understanding of the research findings.
A common theme throughout the discussions was that elder abuse rarely occurs as single incident or as a single form of abuse. As with child abuse and domestic violence, abuse patterns repeat. Multiple forms of abuse occur together.
Social isolation is often an indicator of more broad ranging elder abuse. Perpetrators with designs on an older person’s assets will often isolate the victim from family and friends.
Social isolation is itself a form of elder abuse. Preventing an elder from having visitors or phone calls, telling callers that the elder is not available is a common tactic to separate the elder from loved ones. Social isolation is recognized as a form of psychological abuse.
In California, isolating an elder is a crime under Penal Code 368. On August 19, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 937, clarifying that conservatees retain the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.
Investigators attending the forum were encouraged to “look beyond the surface.” They will often find that psychological abuse is accompanied by financial abuse and perhaps physical abuse or sexual abuse. By “digging deeper” investigators can find the forms of abuse that are not as readily seen.
The forum presentations and discussions were recorded on video. NCPEA’s project team will develop an interdisciplinary training curriculum on polyvictimization in later life consisting of a video series accompanied by written training materials. Video and written materials will be available on a dedicated website. Material will also be made available through webinars and conferences.
The interdisciplinary project to explore and address polyvictimization in later life is supported by a grant from the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Office for Victims of Crime. From late 2012 through January 2015, a collaboration of experts will share their expertise and practice wisdom. The Project Core Team receives input from seven national partner organizations representing distinct professional constituencies.