Actor Mickey Rooney shares a firsthand account as a victim of elder abuse at a hearing held by the Senate Special Committee on Aging on March 2nd.
“I felt trapped, scared, and frustrated.”
These were the words of beloved actor Mickey Rooney, now 90 years old, as he shared his experience as a victim of elder abuse at the hands of a family member. Rooney’s testimony was delivered at a March 2nd hearing, convened by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, to address effective and cost-saving responses to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Sponsored by Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) and cosponsored by JWI and a coalition of other groups, the hearing underscored the need to scale up efforts to prevent, prosecute and mitigate the impact of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of older Americans. It received national media attention and proved to be an important step forward.
A series of speakers* shared the latest research, highlighted successful prevention and treatment programs, and discussed the devastating effects of elder abuse. Collectively, they called for increased federal involvement and better coordination at the local level. The committee is soliciting public testimony until March 16th on the need for federal support from outside groups.
“Elder Abuse is a growing epidemic. By conservative estimates, at least 2 million cases are reported each year,” said Bonnie Brandl of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL). “And we know many victims do not report for a variety of reasons, including fear, concern for the perpetrator, a lack of power, social isolation, ageism, cultural issues and financial barriers.” Older victims, the majority of them women, are less likely to report abuse; a 2009 study found that 85% of older adults who experience sexual abuse did not report to police or other authorities.
As a follow-up to the hearing, Senator Kohl has introduced the End Abuse in Later Life Act of 2011. The bill reauthorizes a critical grant program in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that would enhance existing direct services for older victims and increase the number of partners eligible for multidisciplinary training to address the issue. JWI will be working throughout the year to ensure that this bill is incorporated into the final version of VAWA, which is scheduled to be reauthorized during 2011.
“We want older Americans to age with their dignity intact,” says Loribeth Weinstein, executive director of JWI. “Our current response systems are woefully inadequate and we need to do better. JWI is committed to working with Congressional leadership and with partners to ensure that this issue gets the attention it needs.”
*Senator Kohl’s staff welcomes the expert witnesses who testified at the hearing. From left: Kay Brown, GAO; Kathleen Quinn, National Adult Protective Services Association; Dr. Mark Lachs, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; Marni Karlin; Ashley Carson; Marie-Therese Connolly, Director, Life Long Justice (housed at Appleseed); and Bonnie Brandl, National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life.