I started working with survivors of domestic and sexual abuse in 1981 in a rural, northwestern county of Wisconsin. I came to this work after experiencing family violence in my own life and like many others, soon recognized that by helping others, I was able to turn something difficult in my life into something positive. Over the years, I came in frequent contact with End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, then the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, through their networking and training opportunities and eventually, as a board member and trainer. It wasn’t until 2002 that I was hired at the coalition and in 2003, began my work with NCALL. NCALL felt like a natural progression in my work in the violence against women field. I wanted to use my experience and skills to benefit older adults.
NCALL has made important impacts in the elder abuse and victim services field over the last twenty years. Our work with the Office on Violence Against Women has improved local communities’ response to abuse in later life throughout the United States. In my job as Advocacy Coordinator, I have had the opportunity to create trainings and resource materials and work with numerous grantees in developing a collaborative response to abuse in later life.
Along with our work with grant communities, NCALL has contributed amazing resources for the field, including articles, curricula, videos, and online training opportunities. I have enjoyed being part of this process and am delighted that organizations can access these resources for free on our website.
When asked to do this blog, I was asked to include ideas for NCALL’s next 20 years. As someone who is nearing retirement, thoughts of the next 20 years feel like someone else’s work. However, I am pleased to be asked and of course, do have ideas and thoughts on future work.
I would like to see NCALL continue to explore the impact of abuse in later life on older adults, especially those from traditionally marginalized communities such as communities of color, the immigrant community, the LGBTQ community, and the disability community. How is the current response impacted not only by the outward prejudice that is evident in our current society but also the implicit biases that exist in all of us? Who else should we be inviting to the table to expand our idea of collaboration? What else needs to be done to ensure we are providing survivor-centered services to all victims, especially survivors with intersectional identities impacted by both historic and current oppressive practices?
Additionally, I would like to see communities explore alternative methods outside of the criminal justice system that might be useful for older adults. Many older adults don’t want to see their partner, adult child, grandchild, or other loved one involved in the criminal justice system or impacted by the resulting complications of a criminal conviction. For example, restorative justice practices focus on the needs and desires of the victim while repairing the harm not only to the victim but also the harm experienced by the family and community while holding the offender accountable. Would this be a viable option in cases of elder abuse? Are there communities that have already explored restorative justice practices with older victims of crime and if yes, what can we learn from them?
It has been almost 17 years since I began my work with End Abuse and NCALL. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with amazing individuals, each bringing their unique talents to this work. The dedication and commitment to social justice and improving the response to older survivors has been inspiring. Happy anniversary NCALL and may the next 20 years be equally successful!