Victoria Police is reminding seniors of its commitment to protecting the community and keeping everyone safe this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on Friday 15 June.
As Assistant Commissioner of Family Violence Command at Victoria Police, I’ve come to realise that many people don’t know that elder abuse is a form of family violence, and that they don’t understand the role that police can play in responding to incidents of elder abuse.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, that causes harm or distress to an older person. It is carried out by someone the person knows and trusts, who can include partners, carers, friends or family including children. It is a complex issue, and can occur regardless of a person’s gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic background.
Elder abuse takes many forms and usually doesn’t occur in isolation. Examples can include financial, physical, emotional or psychological, social, sexual or neglect.
Like other forms of family violence, we know that elder abuse is often hidden. Older people experiencing abuse can be reluctant to report or speak about it for a number of reasons, including that they rely on the perpetrator for company or care, or that they don’t want to get that person into trouble.
This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a timely reminder to encourage older Victorians to speak to police if they need help, and to reassure them that their report will be taken seriously. Elder abuse is completely unacceptable and nobody should have to experience it.
Staying socially connected is an important way to reduce an older person’s vulnerability to abuse.
A huge part of tackling elder abuse comes from educating our police officers on how to identify this form of family violence, equipping them to respond respectfully and to always consider appropriate and best practice responses to elder abuse.
For the past few years, Victoria Police has provided employees with insight into the issue of elder abuse and the role of policing in responding to and preventing this type of behaviour through annual professional development days.
This year employees will hear about elder abuse from the perspective of organisations such as State Trustees, Seniors Rights Victoria and representatives from banking institutions.
Victoria Police has a range of initiatives in place to better understand elder abuse. We want to make sure the older community are heard, understood and valued. We are committed to protecting older people’s safety and wellbeing and enabling older Victorians to lead dignified, secure lives, as valued members of society.
What can police do?
Police respond to elder abuse in the same way that they respond to any family violence incident or emergency where there is an immediate risk of physical harm or serious damage to property.
In addition to an emergency response, police can also offer the following responses to elder abuse:
- conducting regular welfare checks
- applying to the court for an intervention order on the older person’s behalf to protect the person from further abuse
- Victoria Police Family Violence Advisors can offer specialised advice
- Referring people to other agencies able to offer support and assistance.
The legal protections available to people who experience family violence apply equally to older people.
Our goal is to ensure that all people enjoy quality of life, even as we age, and this includes being free from fear of being a victim of crime.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing elder abuse, please contact your local police.
If you don’t feel comfortable coming to police, and you are not in immediate danger, you can speak to Seniors Right Victoria on their free and confidential helpline: 1300 368 821.
Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter
Assistant Commissioner of Family Violence Command at Victoria Police
Victoria Police reminds seniors of our commitment to community safety this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day