The Facts About Violence Against Midlife & Older Women

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Women's Health Care: Information & Issues
The Facts About Violence Against Midlife & Older Women

OWL — FACTS

The Facts About Violence Against Midlife & Older Women

OWL’s 1994 Mother’s Day Report is a CALL TO ACTION to America’s policymakers, law enforcement experts and citizens to take steps to prevent the crime and elder abuse that directly and indirectly harm so many of this nation’s midlife and older women.

Although the statistics on these issues are sparse — because there is insufficient data collection on elder abuse and few breakdowns of violent crime that identify the age, gender and race of victims — anyone who interacts with older women knows that violence and fear of violence pervade their lives. The facts on violence against midlife and older women include the following:

  • Twice as many women over age 65 are mugged at or near their homes as younger women, and are much more likely to have the incident occur during daylight. In fact, three in four of the incidents involving women age 65 and over occur during daylight. (Bachman, 1994)
  • One of every hundred women age 50 to 64 is likely to be a victim of a violent crime (including assault, rape, and robbery), and two of every hundred women age 65 or older is likely to be a victim of personal larceny (theft of property or cash with and without contact). (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1973-90 Trends, 1992)
  • Midlife and older African American women (50-64, 65+) are more than twice as likely as white women in the same age groups to be victims of violent crimes. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States 1991, 1992)
  • When violent crime against girls and women age 12 to 34 decreased during the period from 1987 to 1991, violent crime against women 50 and over remained the same. (Bachman, for 1987-90 data; Bureau of Justice Statistics, for 1991 data)
  • Between 1974 and 1990, the murder rate for women age 65 and older increased by 30 percent while the murder rate for men the same age dropped by six percent. (Senate Judiciary Committee, 1990).
  • In 1991, 60 percent of crimes of violence against women ages 50-64 and 82 percent of violent crimes committed against women age 65 or over were committed by strangers. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the U.S. 1991, 1992)
  • According to a national survey of the health of women, conducted for the Commonwealth Fund in 1992, an estimated 1.4 million women between the ages of 45 and 64 were physically abused by their spouses. (Plichta)
  • Of 1,500 shelters for battered women nationwide, few offer programs specifically designed to meet the needs of older battered women. For instance, a study of 25 shelters in Florida — where there are a disproportionate number of older people — found that just two offered services for older women. (Vinton, 1992)
  • More than a million American women age 65 and over are victims of abuse each year. (Policy Research, Inc. 1994)
  • Nearly 400,000 older women living in institutions are victims of physical or sexual abuse. In one study, more than 36 percent of care providers in institutional facilities had witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse by another staff person, and four in five (81 percent) had witnessed an incident of psychological abuse. (House Select Committee on Aging, 1991)
  • Between 1986 and 1991, there was a 94 percent increase in elder abuse reported to state agencies. (NARCEA, 1991)
  • Women are much more likely than men to be elder abuse victims. In Fiscal Year 1993, nearly three-fourths of all Illinois abuse victims over the age of 60 were women; because women represent 59 percent of the population in this age group in Illinois, they were significantly overrepresented in reported elder abuse cases. In the same year, in Colorado, more than two in three newly reported protection cases among adults age 60 or over were women. (Illinois Department of Aging, Colorado Department of Justice)
  • In elder sexual abuse cases, the victim is typically a woman in her seventies, dependent for care upon the person who abused her. (Ramsey-Klawsnik, 1991)
  • Financial abuse typically occurs among unmarried women age 65 and older who are socially isolated, financially independent and often have significant assets. (Heisler and Tweksbury, 1991)
  • Older people are victims in 99 percent of home improvement scams. Most of these victims are women age 65 to 79 who live alone. (Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1993)
  • Although people over age 65 represent 12 percent of America’s population, experts estimate that more than 30 percent of consumer fraud investigations involve people in this age group. (Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1993)

References

Bachman, R. (1994) Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report, Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, p. 4.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992) Criminal Victimization in the United States: 1973-1990 Trends. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ-139564.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992) Criminal Victimization in the United States: 1991, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ-139563,

Colorado Department of Justice, from data provided March 1994.

Heisler, Candace J. and Tweksbury, Jane (1991) Fiduciary Abuse of the Elderly: A Prosecutor’s Perspective, Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, vol. 3(4).

Illinois Department on Aging. Elder abuse and Neglect Program. FY 1993 Annual Report, p.9.

National Aging Resource Center on Elder Abuse (1991) Elder Abuse and Neglect: A National Research Agenda.

National Aging Resource Center on Elder Abuse (1993) Elder Abuse: Questions and Answers. Washington, D.C.

Plichta, S. Violence, Health and Use of Health Services, undated, unpublished, p. 30.

Policy Research, Inc. (1994) Calculated from data from National Center on Elder Abuse.

Ramsey-Klawsnik, Holly (1991) Elder Sexual Abuse: Preliminary Findings. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, vol. 3(3).

U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging (1991) Protecting America’s Abused Elderly: The Need for Congressional Action. U.S. Government Printing Office. Comm. Pub. No. 102-810.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Ten Facts About Violence Against Women (1990) Reported in: NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund statement before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, Judiciary Committee, House of Representatives, 1993.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (1991) Elder Abuse and Neglect: Prevention and Intervention, U.S. Government Printing Office. Serial No. 102-5.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (1993) Consumer Fraud and the Elderly: Easy Prey? Serial No. 102-25.

Vinton, L. (1992) Battered Women’s Shelters and Older Women: The Florida Experience. Journal of Family Violence, Vol. 7(1).

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