Suffering in Silence: Elder abuse under-reported & on the rise

For every victim who reports financial elder abuse, dozens more do not

Authors: Megan Blarr & Steven Brown, WGRZ | Full article available here

Our nation's oldest citizens are increasingly being preyed upon, most often by people they know and trust, and it's a growing problem that is costing aging Americans billions of dollars each year.

Elder abuse affects as many as 2 million seniors every year in the U.S., and experts estimate that number will continue to grow as the population ages.

Unfortunately, it's always been a guessing game as to just how many suffer from elder abuse because it is severely under-reported. Despite the accessibility of Adult Protective Services nationwide, an overwhelming number of cases go undetected and untreated each year.

MORE: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

In Erie County, there are more than 1,500 cases of elder abuse reported each year. But many more are never reported.

"I think elder abuse, financial abuse, happens more often than we realize," said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

Only one in 24 victims report elder abuse to police or a social service agency. Financial exploitation is even worse, with only one in 44 cases of financial abuse reported.

"I don't only view this as financial exploitation, I view it as financial rape," said Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita. "We will see some of the same dynamics in these cases as we see with sexual assaults."

According to Sedita, the victims often withdraw, blame themselves and are reluctant to press charges. The National Center on Elder Abuse says that's because approximately 90 percent of abusers are family members.

"Everybody knows somebody who's been victimized," said State Senator Patrick Gallivan. "[But] they may not know it because it most often comes at the hands of someone they love and somebody they trust..."

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