Journal Staff Writer
Rhode Island women in their fifties are more likely than older females to be abused by spouses or other intimate partners. Women over 60 are most often victimized by their grown children and grandchildren.
In a groundbreaking study of domestic abuse of older women, researchers have found that while Rhode Island police investigate hundreds of cases of domestic abuse reported each year, many of them never go through the court system and those who are prosecuted rarely get sentenced to prison.
Researchers discovered “a major divide” between the police and social workers who investigate elder abuse cases for the state.
When the researchers began, they assumed that most abuse of older women was perpetrated by relatives who were “over-stressed caregivers” and that a small percentage of victims would actually report their abuse to the police.
But researchers found the opposite.
Here are their findings:
- Most of the older women who file domestic-abuse reports with the police in Rhode Island are 50 to 59 years old.
- A little over half of the reported abuse on women over 50 was committed by current or former spouses, live-in partners or former partners; about 46 percent involved other family members, most often grown sons.
- Almost half of alleged abusers had prior criminal records in Rhode Island, nearly one-third of them records for domestic violence.
- Women who are 60 or older were more likely to be victimized by grown children and grandchildren than by spouses, boyfriends or former intimate partners.
- Older women who remain married to their abusers are at a higher risk of continued abuse than those who separate or divorce.
- Reporting abuse did not act as a deterrent. More than 22 percent of the older women who reported domestic abuse in 2002 were subjected to repeat abuse; one-third of them were revictimized two to five times between 2002-2004, most within the same year as the original incident. Most of the new incidents involved the same subject.
- Women who had gotten restraining orders against their abusers were much more likely to be subjected to recurrent abuse than those who had not.
- Most abuse of older women is not physical or sexual assault and does not require emergency medical attention; 44 percent of the reported abuse involved physical or sexual assaults and 9 percent involved weapons. More than half of the complaints involved threats of bodily injury or incidents of property damage or stolen property.
• Only 10 percent of the reported offenses were charged by the police as felonies.
- Prosecutors dismissed charges against nearly one-third of the defendants charged by the police with crimes involving domestic abuse of women over 50; less than 10 percent served any prison time.
- There is little collaboration between the police and the Department of Elderly Affairs, the state agency that provides social services for victims of abuse and neglect. During 2002, the DEA referred just three domestic abuse cases that it received to the police and the police got the DEA involved in just 35 cases.
SOURCE: Projo News
Click for Updates, More Cases and Resources