Many older Americans turn to their faith communities and faith leaders for help when they are experiencing abuse. Older survivors know and deeply trust faith leaders and community members and often reach out for assistance in times of great need. As a faith leader, you can play a critical role in responding to abuse as well as improving access to services and supports for older survivors in your community. You may also be in a unique position to observe signs of abuse and indicators of abusive behavior.
In October 2008, NCALL and Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse examined the juncture of elder abuse and faith on a national level, and sought to strengthen collaborations among faith community leaders and domestic violence, elder abuse, and sexual assault service providers.

Selected Resources

Where Faith and Safety Meet

Cover artwork for toolkit Where Faith and Safety MeetIn 2010, Safe Havens and NCALL released an elder abuse and faith toolkit intended to support service providers and advocates as they reach out to and collaborate with local faith communities. This toolkit, Where Faith and Safety Meet: Faith Communities Respond to Elder Abuse, offers resources for service providers and advocates, as well as for faith communities. We hope that, working together, service providers and faith communities can respond more effectively to victims and survivors and increase access to community-based services.

Partnering to Address Faith and Safety

In 2013, Safe Havens and NCALL released a companion toolkit, Partnering to Address Faith
and Safety: A Guide for Faith Leaders Cover artwork for Partnering to Address Faith and Safetyand Domestic and Sexual Violence Service Providers to Assist Older Victims of Abuse
. This guide provides ideas, best practices, and strategies for domestic and sexual violence service providers and faith leaders to build partnerships that support older victims and survivors.

Other pages in this section

Civil Attorneys
Civil attorneys and other civil legal system professionals work each day to ensure victim safety and hold offenders accountable for harm to older survivors. Their knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of elder abuse, as well as the legal remedies and non-litigation resources available to older survivors, are critical in developing effective intervention strategies to end elder abuse and prevent further harm to older adults.
Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocates and Programs
Many older survivors will seek the help of domestic and sexual violence advocates and programs in dealing with the abuse they experience. Older victims can benefit from many of the services traditionally offered by domestic violence and sexual assault programs such as individual and peer counseling, support groups, emergency and transitional housing, and specialized economic and legal advocacy.
Healthcare Providers
Health care providers are in a unique position to identify and respond to abuse in later life. Often, many older adults, especially survivors, have an ongoing relationship with one or more health care providers. Primary care physicians, emergency room staff, geriatricians, dentists, physical therapists, and other providers each have an opportunity to see injuries suggesting abuse, neglect, or exploitation, or indicators of trauma.
Law Enforcement
As first responders, law enforcement officers can play a key role in providing an effective response to abuse in later life at the local level. In many cases, law enforcement can use tools already used in domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, and sexual abuse cases to interview victims and gather evidence. Officers can also benefit from learning about abuse in later life and abuse dynamics; appropriate referral resources for intervention and support for older victims; and working collaboratively with other organizations.
Professionals Working in Tribal Communities
In many cultures, elders preserve traditions and share wisdom to help ensure community permanency and balance. Indigenous communities often hold elders in a unique and important social position. The dramatic increase in the number of older individuals has led to concern over the well-being of older adults in these communities.
Prosecutors
A significant number of reported cases of elder abuse do not progress through the criminal justice system. Whether an elder abuse case is successfully prosecuted may depend on a prosecuting attorney’s familiarity with effective investigation and prosecution strategies. Further, prosecutors must be able to collaborate across disciplines to increase victim identification, to encourage victims to engage with the criminal system, and to ultimately hold more offenders accountable.
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