Our team continues to be concerned about the threat of elder abuse. We are glad to see that this problem has been getting more attention. Sadly, that attention does not seem to translate directly into a willingness to report and pursue legal cases against those who commit elder abuse. We understand the hesitancy to bring criminal charges, especially when the abuser is someone close to the senior. While we do believe the criminal prosecution of offenders is important, our Northern California elder abuse law firm also urges victims to consider a civil elder abuse claim which can allow them to recover monetary damages and put a stop to abuse without the added tension of a criminal charge.
Report Uncovers Reluctance to Bring Elder Abuse Charges
A report carried by Yahoo Canada last month focused on the small percentage of elder abuse investigations that eventually result in criminal charges in Canadian courts. Researchers found that out of 453 allegations of elder abuse handled by police in Ottawa during a five year span, only 17% resulted in actual charges. This is substantially lower than average, with 25% of probes across the board resulting in charges.
Investigators found that more than half of the cases that did not result in charges involved either insufficient evidence or a victim who refused to co-operate with the police department. Victims appear hesitant to file because of a desire to maintain family relationships and concerns about retaliation, including being placed in an institutionalized care facility if they pursue abuse charges. Financial dependency exacerbates both fears, as does facing a disability or other physical or mental illness. Canadian police report spending time walking seniors through the benefits of pursuing a criminal elder abuse case, including assistance available to abusive family members, but ultimately the same vulnerabilities that lead to abuse also lead to a failure to pursue charges. In some cases, police were able to make a referral to social services or other support groups or issue a verbal warning to the accused related to the allegations.
Notably, the Ottawa study found that women represented 70% of alleged abuse victims, likely because women account for a disproportionate share of the elderly population. The cases involved slightly more women than men (52% to 48%) accused of abusive acts, with men more likely to target family or friends and women more likely to target seniors who are under their care in an institutional location. Financial abuse was the most common form of mistreatment, followed by verbal or physical abuse and a smaller number of sexual abuse cases. .
Helping California’s Elderly
The National Center on Elder Abuse provides a list of resources for elder abuse victims in California along with a list of some of the applicable state laws. We encourage abuse victims and those who suspect a loved one or community member is being abused to explore the resources and to strongly consider a criminal case. Our firm can also provide representation in civil court, helping victims recover stolen money and receive damages for physical or emotional mistreatment. Civil cases do not involve jail time or other criminal punishments, but they can help bring an end to abuse and allow a victim to move forward from a dangerous, tragic time. Call to schedule a meeting with our elder abuse lawyer in San Francisco or any of our other Northern California locations.
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(Photo by Jonas Boni)