The Case That Prompted this Blog
September 8, 2012
Brazil: Reports of Elderly Abuse Rising
From January to May, 7,253 complaints were received by the Ministry of Justice’s Disque 100 hotline, compared with 2,342 during the same period last year.
By Cristine Pires for Infosurhoy.com
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil–
Dona Joana Souza (not her real name) did not want to wait for her family to put her in a shelter. She took it upon herself to find a new place to live, so she’d escape the mistreatment she suffered at the hands of her grandson, a crack addict and alcoholic.
In 2006, at the age of 75, she was taken by her niece to stay at the Padre Cacique Shelter in Porto Alegre.
“My grandson beats me to get money for drugs,” Souza said during her interview for admission into the shelter. “I can’t take it anymore.”
Souza lived with her only son and her grandson. Her son suffered from a lung disease and was unable to control the young man, who would come home in a violent pursuit of money to buy crack.
Souza’s son had respiratory complications and died in 2009. A year later, her grandson succumbed to health problems caused by the highly addictive narcotic.
The crack pandemic plaguing Brazil has directly affected the number of reports of violence against the elderly.
“The situation has gotten worse due to drug use among young people,” says psychologist Fernanda Braga of the Court of Justice for the Federal District and Surrounding Territories (TJDFT). “Drug addiction causes behavioral changes and users become more aggressive.”
In June, the Public Defender’s Office of the Federal District at the Plano Piloto Terminal in Brasília implemented a task force to assist senior citizens who had become victims of violence. In their statements, they reported difficulties distancing themselves from their children and grandchildren who abused drugs.
“They feel a mix of fear and pity. But, above all, they feel responsible because they’re being attacked by the people they raised,” Braga adds.
The situation is made worse by low self-esteem, which leads many senior citizens to keep quiet about the violence, Braga says.
“We need to encourage them to file complaints and seek help,” she says.
Psychological violence accounted for 53% of the cases reported to the Public Defender’s task force. The other leading forms of mistreatment cited by those interviewed were negligence and financial exploitation.
In 2011, the Public Defender handled 336 cases of elderly abuse in the Federal District of Brasília – and 66% of victims were targeted by their children.
“Psychological abuse is the main complaint of those who come to Padre Cacique,” says social worker Cristina Pozzer, the shelter’s technical director. “They feel like they’re invisible to the family.”
One hundred fifty senior citizens live at Padre Cacique Shelter in Porto Alegre, capital city of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state. Many were abused and sent over by the Public Ministry or the Police Department’s Senior Citizens Unit. (Carlos Edler for Infosurhoy.com)
One hundred fifty senior citizens live at Padre Cacique. Many were abused and sent over by the Public Ministry or the Police Department’s Senior Citizens Unit.
Most of the reported cases of abuse occurred in the home (84%), and victims’ children are the main offenders (54%), according to the Rio Grande do Sul State Council for the Elderly.
“More data is needed to research elder abuse,” says Paulo Regina de Oliveira Ribeiro, a public defender who specializes in gerontology and elderly health and serves as the coordinator of the Federal District Public Defender’s Elder Defense Center.
Still, Disque 100 (Dial 100), a complaint hotline created by the federal government, reflects the seriousness of the problem: There were 7,253 complaints of elderly abuse from January to May 2012, compared with 2,342 during the same period last year.
But the Ministry of Justice says the increase does not mean that elderly abuse is on the rise – it’s the result of more people reporting cases of abuse.
The cases most commonly reported to Disque 100 include negligence, psychological and physical abuse, as well as financial exploitation.
How to report elderly abuse
Disque 100 hotline
How to find treatment for drug addicts
Disque Saúde 136 hotline
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