DOJ: 'Older Victims May Not Be Believed If They Report Stalking, Particularly If the Victim Has Dementia'

February 20, 2014 - 12:18 PM

Doormen Elderly Abuse

In this Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 photo, elder abuse attorney and specialist Joy Solomon, right, speaks during a class at a condominium in New York, on teaching doormen and building staff how to identify and what to do if they spot cases of elder abuse. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

( – A $400,000 grant from the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women has been announced to address sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking of women 50 years old and up.

Older victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking “face additional challenges in accessing services to enhance their safety,” because of “misconceptions about older individuals,” the grant solicitation said.

“Some may think that domestic violence does not occur or lessens in later life, or that older persons are not victims of dating violence,” it noted.

“Myths about sexual assault coupled with a failure to see older individuals as sexual beings can hinder professionals from recognizing indicators of sexual assault when dealing with older victims,” it said.

“Older victims may not be believed if they report stalking, particularly if the victim has dementia or psychiatric disabilities. An appropriate response to older victims of these crimes must take into account the unique challenges they face,” the solicitation said.

The grant also addresses elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was created in 1995 to provide national leadership on issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

Congress created the Abuse in Later Life Program, recognizing that individuals 50 years old and older who are victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking “face unique barriers to receiving assistance.”

Priority will be given to proposals that serve “culturally specific and underserved populations” like “communities of color, in a culturally appropriate manner, with a special emphasis on African-American, tribal and LGBT communities, as well as individuals with disabilities and Deaf individuals.”

The grant solicitation was announced on Dec. 11, 2013, and the application deadline was Feb. 5, 2014. The grant award period is 36 months. The estimated total program funding is $3 million.

Calls to the Office of Violence Against Women were not returned at press time.