Elder Abuse in Rhode Island

Dec 23, 2008

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service recently posted a groundbreaking study that examines abuse of older women in Rhode Island, and the criminal justice response. The first study to look at an entire state’s population of abused women 50 and older finds more intimate abuse than researchers expected, especially among married couples, and more abuse by predatory offspring and grandchildren as women reach age 60.

Researchers examined every domestic violence report made to state and local law enforcement in Rhode Island in 2002 involving female victims 50 and older, whether or not there was an arrest. They found that, as women victims aged, their likelihood of abuse declined and the abuser was more likely to be a non-intimate family member. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the abusive family members who are harming women ago 60 and older are less likely to be stressed caregivers than children or grandchildren with criminal histories.

“While the abuse of women age 50 to 59 more closely resembles that of women under 50, abuse of women 60 years and older is significantly different, with a majority of elder female victims abused by family members as opposed to current or former intimates,” the study says. It concludes that the criminal justice system’s response does not vary with the age of the victim, with charges equally likely to be brought whether the victim is in her 50’s or older.

The study found little cooperation among agencies. Few cases referred to the state’s Department of Elder Affairs were referred to police, and relatively few cases brought to police were referred to the Department for services. Researchers identified the need “for a strong collaborative judicial and social service response, due to the complexity of these cases.”

The federally-funded study, “A Statewide Profile of Abuse of Older Women and the Criminal Justice Response” by Andrew Klein, Terri Tobin, Amy Salomon and Janice Dubois, is available online by clicking here.