Although it can be very difficult to talk about, sexual abuse of seniors is not uncommon. It might be perpetrated by family members or by caregivers in nursing or assisted living facilities. Sexual abuse is no different from rape and other sex crimes committed against non-seniors. Like all forms of abuse, the central motivation is power and control, not sexual attraction. If an elder reports unwanted sexual contact by a caregiver, his or her report should be taken seriously. It is vital that the person in whom the senior confides does not simply accept the perpetrator’s version of events or assume that such allegations stem from age-related diseases such as dementia.
There is help available for victims of elder abuse. Many forms of elder abuse are also crimes, particularly physical and sexual abuse and some forms of financial abuse such as identity theft or fraud. Call the police to press charges against the perpetrator. In some counties, the district attorney’s office may also have victims’ advocates to help seniors navigate the court process.
If the perpetrator of elder abuse is a family member, the elder may be able to go to Family Court to request an order of protection. In many counties, local domestic violence/sexual violence agency staff can assist in the completion of petitions and accompany the elder to court. If the elder is physically or mentally disabled, help may also be available through the Department of Social Services’ office for Adult Protective Services in the county in which the elder resides. Their staff may also be able to assist in obtaining orders of protection. In Delaware County, the telephone number is 832-5300. In Otsego County, the telephone number is 547-1700.
Assistance, including referrals for free legal services, is available from the Office for the Aging in the county in which the senior resides. In Delaware County, the telephone number is 746-6333. In Otsego County, the telephone number is 547-4232.