To help create awareness for the many forms of domestic violence, in collaboration with the Family Life Center, we will feature information each Friday during the month of October in hopes that it will help make a difference, save a life, or change a behavior. We hope you’ll share the information as you never know whose life it may touch or impact. – Flagler News Weekly
Friday Feature Domestic Violence Awareness Month – DV in Mature Living
Guest Writer: Trish Giaccone, LMHC, NCC, CEO Family Life Center
During a speaking engagement early in my career, I was asked about the age range of victims who seek services at the Family Life Center. I eagerly shared with the audience the presence of residents ranging in age from newborn to 72. There was a collective gasp within the room and I found myself a little taken aback by the shock of the group. Upon their exit, many attendees shared with me their surprise at the advanced age of some of the emergency shelter residents and considered domestic violence a problem for the “younger people”. In my naiveté I considered the reaction from the group an isolated situation and shrugged it off. Not long after the speaking engagement, a victim called the crisis helpline in tears and began her sentence with, “I don’t know if you help women my age but I don’t know where else to turn”. The victim proceeded to share the abuse she endured from her husband of over 40 years, how their children lived in various states and help from them was not an option along with her strong faith in her marital vows. The internal conflict shared by the victim was gut-wrenching to say the least.
Each of these incidents brings about an interesting question: Can there be an “age-out” of victimization? Please hear me when I say emphatically – NO! There is no such thing as being too old to be a victim of domestic violence. Fla. Stat §741.28 defines domestic violence and does not delineate ages within the definition. Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age. Older victims engaged with our services have shared comments they have heard such as, “Your old enough to know better”, “You’ve been together so long, why is it a problem now”, or “You know it’s the medication/health issue, things will get better, just wait it out”. I have to believe these comments were not made with malicious intent; however, they are reflective of a lack of consideration for older victims. The power and control wheel identifies multiple tactics abusers use to gain and maintain control of victims and each approach is certainly applicable to older victims. According to the National Council on Aging (2021) roughly 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have suffered some type of elder abuse. This is of course in consideration of those who report and we are certain many do not. A significant difference between elder abuse and domestic violence is the relationship between the perpetrator of abuse and the victim. And while each of these crimes are deplorable and carry substantial penalties, identification of such crimes remains low. Domestic violence in older population may look like:
1) Insults, demeans, or shames the victim, especially in front of other people.
2) Prevents the victim from seeking medical care or withholding medication.
3) Controls finances or financially exploits the victim.
4) Denies access to traditional or spiritual activities.
5) Isolation of the victim from friends or family members and or does not allow the victim to drive independently.
This is not an exhaustive list but rather a small array of strategies a perpetrator of domestic violence may utilize to harm victims. Age does not preclude someone from being a victim of domestic violence or a perpetrator of abuse. Certified domestic violence centers around the state are able to assist victims of all ages with services. If you recognize even one of the signs above, please reach out to speak to a Florida Privileged Advocate in confidence by calling or texting 386-437-3505. Please remember, it does not matter what your age is, you are not alone.