SecuCities project: Abused and neglected elderly women
Duration of the project: 1 November 2001 – 31 December 2002
Because they are vulnerable and dependent, and sometimes because they own property and goods, elderly people, and in particular elderly women (about 8%), are frequently the victims of abuse, violence and neglect. There are many forms of abuse of elderly women, both “at home” and in institutions; what they have in common is that they are hidden, habitual, daily and, as a result, are perceived as almost natural.
Most of this violence takes place within families (64% of all cases); institutions account for 20%, and the remaining cases occur in public and semi-public areas (bank exits, elevators, stairwells).
While the incidence of this type of violence is rising steeply and rapidly – in line presumably with the increase in the number of elderly people in our industrialised societies – this is not a new phenomenon. The facts, which have been concealed for so long, are finally emerging, thanks to the efforts of a few researchers and curers.
There have been studies of the perpetrators of these forms of abuse, but we now need to focus on analysing exposure to the risk of violence, comparing conditions in various European countries.
Objectives of the project:
The first goal of the project was to contribute to ongoing efforts aimed at shedding light on an issue which is still considered taboo (raising awareness and spreading information on good practices); the second goal was to suggest local responses in terms of primary prevention, prevention of recidivism, assistance to victims, establishment of inter-disciplinary networks and support networks involving local authorities, specific training programs for natural carers and professional carers, and to influence legislation.
The opening seminar of the project took place in Genoa and highlighted the fact that participating cities are already aware of the needs of elderly victims of urban crime. A number of projects were already in existence providing support for elderly victims (training police agents who record complaints from elderly people; risk prevention through distribution of specifically targeted information leaflets and video cassettes, counselling and psychological support for victims of abuse, etc.). On the other hand, there is no systematic data collection on violence within families or in institutions, except in cities belonging to the ALMA network in France.
Following the initial seminar in Genoa, it was decided to use the meetings in the cities to increase public awareness of abuse and neglect within families and institutions.
In view of the fact that municipal authorities have both the means and the legitimacy to call upon local partners to participate in community meetings, and to coordinate their activities, the project team asked the partners to organise, among other things, a meeting with all the players who, for whatever reason, are involved in this issue in their city. This would allow the group to study the problem from various points of view and would set the stage for the first steps towards coordination between various institutions.
Elected representatives often took part in these meetings, which always included urban safety coordinators and coordinators of services for the elderly.
At these meetings, input from one of the experts – Professor Robert Hugonot, founder of the ALMA network – provided participants with information on one possible approach to the establishment of a special helpline designed to gather information on the abuse and neglect of elderly women.
Thanks to the work of the large number of ALMA helplines, data on abuse in France was also made available to the partners.
Visits to cities
In each city, the Efus project manager and the two experts organised a meeting of the representatives of the various services concerned, staff from homes for the elderly and of voluntary services, representatives of judicial services and police forces, elected representatives, staff members of services providing home care, and union representatives.
These meetings were often followed by visits to hospitals, retirement homes for the elderly, shelters for abused women, offices of NGOs, charitable associations and provincial offices of crime prevention projects.
Centre d’aide aux victimes, City of Charleroi
CAPAM – Centre d’aide aux personnes âgées maltraitées, Liège/Waremme
Centre communal d’actions sociales La Passerelle (C.C.A.S.), in Lorient
Allô maltraitance des personnes âgées, ALMA in Saint-Etienne
Unità Operativa Terza Età Sicura, in Genoa
Ayuntamiento (local government) in Barcelona
Sindacato Pensionati Italiani (SPI – CGIL) in Rome
APAV (Apoio a Vitima) in Lisbon
The overall results of the project can be found in the Efus publication: EFUS, Secucities Abused and Neglected Elderly women, 2003