Domestic Violence in Later Life
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 frequently look for someone they can dominate, someone believed
to be weak, or unlikely or unable to defend them self. Abusers
intentionally use coercive tactics, such as isolation, threats,
intimidation, manipulation, and violence to gain and maintain control
over the victim. In later life, abusers can include spouses and former
spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and in some cases
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
While it may be difficult to acknowledge that someone in
your family is being subjected to abusive behavior knowing how to
recognize the signs and seeking help is important. While the signs for
recognizing domestic violence in later life are very similar to those
for a younger person, there are some differences:
A Victim May||
An Abuser May|
- Have injuries that do not match explanation of how
- Minimize or deny the victim’s injuries or
- Attempt to convince others that they are incompetent
- Have repeated “accidental” injuries.
Blame the victim for being clumsy or difficult.
- Appear isolated.
- Physically assault or threaten
violence against the victim or victim’s family, friends, pets, or
- Forbid the victim from contacting family, friends,
and service providers.
- Threaten or harass the victim.
- Stalk the victim.
- Say or hint that they are afraid.
Act overly attentive toward the victim.
- Give coded communications about what is occurring.
- Act loving, kind, compassionate to the victim, especially in
presence of others.
- Be “difficult” or hard to get
Speak on behalf of the victim; insist on being present during
- Have vague, chronic, non-specific complaints.
Say the victim is incompetent, unhealthy, or crazy.
- Be emotionally and/or financially dependent on their abuser.
Be emotionally and/or financially dependent on the victim.
- Miss appointments.
- Cancel the victim’s
appointments or refuse them the use of a car or other
- Delay seeking medical help.
Cancel the victim’s appointments or refuse them the use of a car
or other transportation.
- Cover up the
abuse by taking victim to different doctors, hospitals, or
- Refuse to purchase needed prescription drugs,
medical supplies, and/or assistive devices.
- Show signs of depression, stress, or trauma.
Turn family members against the victim.
- Talk about them as if they are not there or not a
person (dehumanize victim).
You can take steps to protect yourself:
You may also want to view the Get
Help pages of our web site for more information. If you or someone
you know is being abused and needs help or would like to speak with
someone, confidential help is available 24 hours a day by calling our
crisis line at 425-746-1940.
- Tell someone what is happening to you
- Ask others for help if you need it
- If someone is hurting or threatening you, or if it is not
safe for you where you are, CALL 9-1-1