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The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) invite you to join us in Lifting Up Voices for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2019, a theme that is centered on unifying the parallel fields of Elder Justice and Violence Against Women by bringing to the forefront the lived experiences of older people around the globe. 
 
Lifting Up the Voices of Older Survivors is both the title of and the foundation for a new video project started in 2018 by NCALL and Terra Nova Films, with funding from the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. These videos feature older survivors throughout the United States sharing their stories and experiences of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and financial exploitation.  Lifting Up Voices builds upon the momentum of NCEA’s existing theme, Building Strong Support for Elders, which was informed by the Reframing Elder Abuse initiative encouraging us to consciously think and thoughtfully approach conversations about elder abuse. We are excited to continue developing these initiatives with you for WEAAD 2019.
 
This year, we invite you to join us and other organizations and communities across the country in using a soon to be released collection of special Lifting Up Voices outreach and campaigning tools (i.e. an action guide with sample social media posts, and graphics) incorporating the Lifting Up Voices theme in your community. We’ll have more details on how to access those materials in March 2019.
 
If you would like to be placed on a marketing list to receive this NEW collection of resources, please submit your name, agency, and contact information here. Submitting your information will also enable you to receive notifications on the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Lifting Up Voices of Older Survivors by NCALL and Terra Nova Films video release in Summer 2019.
 
If you have questions, please contact NCALL’s Sara Mayer at smayer@ncall.us and NCEA’s Elizabeth Rojas at Elizabeth.Rojas@med.usc.edu.
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NCALL 20th Anniversary Blog Series
Katie Block

When you go to school for social work, there are two questions MSW candidates often ask each other. First, do you want to be a therapist? And, second, what population do you want to work with? The need to put each other in neat boxes notwithstanding, it was a constant reminder as we all worked through our training on how we wanted to focus our energy. For me, those answers were clear from the start, and would set me apart from most of my peers. No, I did not want to be a therapist (but hats off to that wonderful profession!). I was studying macro social work with a focus on community and policy. I firmly knew I wanted to work with older adults. And I was in a clear minority.

The fact that there were so few of us with even an interest in working with older adults fueled my drive to become an advocate. This lack of interest to me was a consequence of an ageist society where even those who are training to be supports, social justice advocates, and change-makers, had to be convinced that an entire population of people across all boundaries needed dedicated attention. It was an equity and access issue to me. Older adults have done exactly what society has asked of all us, they have lived long lives, and yet they are labeled invaluable, and disregarded across many disciplines and systems. I would see this when I accompanied my grandmother to a medical appointment and the physician would talk to me about her without ever thinking to ask her directly about her own health. I saw it as I provided Medicare counseling; helping people navigate a system that is designed for them but makes it devastatingly hard to navigate to the point that people cannot access the healthcare they need, or end up owing thousands because they were locked into the wrong plan. I saw it as I began working in victim advocacy, where court systems ignored the needs of older adults, prosecutors lacked training on how to work with the population and based decisions on ageist assumptions, and domestic violence support services had work to do to effectively support people over 50. With these things and more in mind, I set out to do something about it.   

It was through my schoolwork that I first learned of NCALL, and in fact used their resources, and Bonnie Brandl’s articles in many of my projects. In the years following, as I began my work supervising a victim advocacy program for older adults, I knew my team and I had a host of valuable resources from NCALL to tap into to help us become better advocates. During this time, I also saw several conference presentations by the NCALL team and was impressed with their approach in dealing with the complex issues related to abuse in later life. It was­ during one conference in Philadelphia, where I saw Bonnie presenting on the OVW Abuse in Later Life Grant Program and the use of a Coordinated Community Response that I knew I wanted to be a part of that work, in some way. It was the type of local level systems change that made sense to me, particularly for the Philadelphia community where so many systems were / are working next to each other rather than with each other when it comes to supporting older victims of crime, and in particular those with limited access.

Through my years working with older victims and survivors, a consistent theme was present. Systems were not set up to provide equitable and just access to supports or justice for older adults. Further, those living at the intersection of older age, race, sexuality, language, and disability often face larger hurdles and more complex stereotypes. They also may encounter a professional field that more often than not is untrained on navigating these complexities, and systems that outright ignore that they exist. So, when the opportunity arose to be part of the National Resource Center for Reaching Victims (NRC) at NCALL, a collaborative project focused on supporting professionals in increasing their capacity to identify, support and serve victims in the margins, I leapt at the chance.

To me, this is the direction the field of older adult advocacy and abuse in later life must go and I’m so pleased to be part of the team advancing this important work. In partnership with the NRC, NCALL is able to take an intersectional approach to develop new resources and engage in learning opportunities for professionals that foster meaningful dialogue about equity and access to healing and justice support to all victims, particularly those in the margins. It is through this lens that I believe communities can build on their capacity to serve all older victims, holistically, and in the way that makes the most sense for each community. This allows for communities to make the systems work for them (or create their own systems!), rather than trying to fit into spaces that were set up for others. I’m truly excited to be a part of this work alongside the NCALL team, and even more excited to see where the field goes from here.

To learn more about NCALL’s work with the NRC contact Katie at KBlock@ncall.us

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