NOTE: It is important to realize that age alone does not qualify an individual as a vulnerable adult. An alert, functioning 80-year old may not be a vulnerable adult, while a 19-year-old with a mental or physical impairment might qualify under the statute. Thus, it is critical to be sure an assessment of the victim’s functioning is included in the police. It may be difficult to tell whether abuse or neglect is occurring. In general, look for changes in the person’s overall behavior or habits. Take into consideration how and what the person is communicating, what their economic conditions are, signs of their emotional health, their physical limitations, their personal appearance and the condition of their home and surroundings.
Domestic Violence – Domestic violence does not respect age. Domestic violence in later life occurs when older individuals are physically, sexually or emotionally abused, exploited, or neglected by someone with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Abusers’ tactics are remarkably similar regardless of age. Abusers frequently look for someone they can dominate, those believed to be weak, unlikely or unable to retaliate. With respect specifically to abuse in later life, the aggressors may include a spouse or former spouse, partners, adult children, extended family, and in some cases caregivers.
Learn about the DES Domestic Violence Program.
Sexual Violence – Sexual violence occurs whenever a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity, including when a vulnerable adult is unable to consent due to age, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Sexual violence of older adults is rarely talked about. Ageism contributes to the mistaken notion that older people are “asexual,”, which fosters the dangerous assumption that they cannot be targets of sexual violence. Older adults may be reliant on their perpetrators to provide their care, which makes victims especially vulnerable to continued violence. Some indicators of sexual violence are bruising, ligature marks, welts, burns, or unexplained STDs.
Exploitation – “Exploitation” means the illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult or the vulnerable adult’s resources for another’s profit or advantage. Investigation of exploitation differs from investigation of abuse or neglect. Investigators with extensive background, training and experience in document-related crimes should be involved in exploitation investigations. A perpetrator who will exploit a vulnerable adult will often put themselves in a position of caregiver to the victim and may abuse them, as well. Coordination between the abuse investigator and the exploitation investigator is critical to the case preparation.
Financial Exploitation – The wrongful or unauthorized taking, withholding, appropriating or use of money, assets or property of a vulnerable adult OR any act or omission taken by a person, including through the use of a power of attorney, guardianship or conservatorship of vulnerable adult, to either obtain control through deception, intimidation or undue influence over the vulnerable adult’s money, assets or property to deprive the eligible adult of the ownership, use, benefit or possession of the eligible adult’s money, assets or property.