A new emphasis on seeking justice for victims is being put into action in southwestern Virginia, where law enforcement is drawing parallels between elder abuse and child abuse.
One in ten Americans over age 60 has been subject to some kind of elder abuse, according to The National Council on Aging. In Wise County, Virginia, a multi-disciplinary team, known as MDT, has gathered to bring together different members of the community to get justice for elder abuse victims.
WJHL.com’s recent article, “Fighting elder abuse with collaboration, new 'MDT team' meets in Wise County, VA,” reports that the new MDT is made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, social workers and prosecutors in Wise County.
Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said this team is the type of collaboration already used in child abuse cases.
"Well, why can't we do that same thing for elder abuse cases. We have the same difficulties in prosecuting them, they're under reported, they're under prosecuted and the victims have a hard time testifying, " Slemp said.
Elder abuse cases, like child abuse cases, are often hard to prosecute.
Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect and abandonment. The perpetrators of this abuse can be children, other family members, spouses, and staff at nursing homes, assisted living and other facilities.
Slemp said he sees extensive credit card fraud, with people opening up credit cards in the name of the other person and charging those up. The elderly or incapacitated person is then responsible for the credit card debt. He also confirmed what the National Council on Aging found: it’s frequently a family member or caretaker who's doing the abuse. In many instances, the victim doesn’t want that person prosecuted.
In one month alone, Wise County Department of Social Services received approximately 40 reports of adult abuse, neglect and exploitation, of which 85 to 90% are 60 or older.
This is a first step in a larger movement, says Slemp, who says that the MDT team will meet monthly to collaborate and review elder abuse cases. He hopes that his new team will continue to spur change and be effective in safeguarding seniors.
Reference: WJHL.com (June 28, 2018) “Fighting elder abuse with collaboration, new 'MDT team' meets in Wise County, VA”