Elder Abuse promotion poster
Elder Abuse promotion poster

Only cowards and bullies abuse children and elders. And they do it simply because children and seniors cannot hit back when these monsters attack.

Society must definitely do much more than talk to protect those who cannot defend themselves because they are too young and too old.

As a poster displayed by a young boy at last week's child abuse march, organised by the Girl Guides Association, said to the bullies: "Go pick on someone your own size."

Last week the Dominica Council on Ageing (DCOA) organised World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) observed internationally on 15 June each year.

In 2022, the media was saturated with interviews on elder abuse because the issue demands that level of attention; elder abuse is indeed obnoxious.

For instance, friends and relatives relegate elder persons to the dark corners of the house that, they, the elders, built; they rob them of their meager riches, even their small old age pensions; they pull their hair; they rape them; they force elder persons to vote for politicians they, the elder person, do not care about; they tell them angrily: "your time pass, shut up… in your…".

In other words, the abuse of older persons is relentless and abhorrent. And few of the powerful seem to care enough to raise a finger to stop it. But these criminals who abuse old people must be stopped.

In Dominica, there should be no greater crime than elder abuse, yet this repulsive behaviour is treated like some mild disease that can be cured with a simple shake of the head.

In 2006 the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) designated June 15 WEAAD, to raise awareness of elder abuse and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.

WEAAD was recognised as a United Nations day by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/66/127 adopted in 2011.

As DCOA held these radio discussions, a few Dominicans learned that elder abuse is a widespread and multi-faceted problem that is eating away at the moral fabric of our society. Elder abuse includes sexual, physical, financial, and emotional abuse; it also includes abandonment and neglect.

What is particularly significant about the problem of abuse of the elderly is the fact that cases are woefully underreported and the main perpetrators are members of the victim's family. So, the hundreds of cases that we hear or read about are just the tip of the head of this multi-headed monster. Information on elder abuse in Dominica is just not available because the victims usually suffer in silence; usually, they are protective of the relatives who abuse them; and, most importantly, our society usually does not keep records of that type of crime. Maybe the DCOA could use this year's WEAAD, and the months and years that follows, to take the first step towards cutting off the head of this ugly beast by conducting surveys to find out how serious the problem is in Dominica. The DCOA will agree that if you do not know the extent of your ailment you cannot prescribe the appropriate medicine.

Elder abuse is a worldwide problem but in Dominica, the situation takes on added dimensions because of the state of the economy. Experts say that elder abuse is worse in poor underdeveloped countries. The reason for this is obvious. If this is true then elder abuse must be indeed very severe because the economy of Dominica is at rock bottom due to a combination of natural disasters, such as Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic, pervasive corruption, and decades of poor planning and inept implementation of programmes and projects.

Social scientists contend that when an economy underperforms the effect is felt most severely by the poor and the elder-poor. Poor senior citizens cannot afford the cost of professional caregivers so these poor seniors stay home alone in their little shacks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that the core element in elder abuse is the trust that is often violated by relatives, caregivers, friends, community workers, and professionals. As an anecdotal point on the issue, we recall the disturbing story of a blind, elderly woman who was being sexually abused by the very man from whom she was calling out for help.

But the question is: what are we doing to reduce elder abuse; where are the marches by the church, the lawyers, the nurses, and the doctors; where is the outrage; where are the George Floyd-type graphic videos to wake us up from our slumber?

The point is that the horror of elder abuse cannot be swept under the door mat to get lost in the dust and grime.

We must call it by its name- a satanic practice that must be exorcised.