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.

COVID-19 and Faith Communities

Amid this social isolation, a quiet, unseen tragedy is unfolding for the approximately 1 in 10 older adults who experience physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse. While physical distancing will slow the virus, isolation is also a risk factor and a weapon of abuse. Like the pandemic itself, abuse is a matter of life and death: older victims are three times more likely to die prematurely than those who are not abused.

For 89% of older adults, faith is a source of strength and resilience. That’s why we are calling on faith communities and faithful people everywhere to increase their efforts to connect with and support older survivors of abuse.

Selected Resources

Elder Abuse and Faith Resource (December 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic intersects with an elder abuse crisis that already affects at least 1 in 10 older adults in the U.S. The pandemic can worsen this abuse as older adults may be sheltering with their abusers, economic insecurity may be putting older adults at greater risk for financial exploitation, and physical distancing may make it more difficult to reach out for help.

Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership, the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life, and Futures Without Violence, recently collaborated to create a new resource for faith leaders & faith communities to help reach and support older adults during COVID-19. If you are a faith leader or a member of a faith community, you have an important role to play. Everyone can be a resource and ally for older adults in their community.  Follow this link to learn more.

Letter to Faith Leaders (April 2020)

Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse and the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life wrote a letter encouraging faith leaders to raise awareness about elder abuse and help to support older victims. This letter has been endorsed by 22 other national organizations.

We invite you to share THIS LETTER and the resources on this page with faith leaders in your community as well as friends and family who can pass the letter to their faith leaders.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the communities and programs you serve. Now more than ever your efforts are vital to older victims and survivors of abuse.

Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse

National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life

Asian Pacific Islander Institute on Gender-Based Violence

Casa de Esperanza

FaithTrust Institute

Futures Without Violence

HEART

Jewish Women International

Justice in Aging

National Adult Protective Services Association

National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Center on Elder Abuse

National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Resource Center for Reaching Victims

Peaceful Families Project

Resource Sharing Project

Ujima Inc: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community

Weill Cornell Medicine’s NYC Elder Abuse Center

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale

Safe Havens and NCALL: 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.

Safe Havens and NCALL: 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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