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Is Elder Abuse a Crime?
Most physical, sexual, and financial/material abuses are considered crimes in all states insofar as these acts violate statutes prohibiting crimes such as assault, battery, rape, theft, etc. In addition, depending on the perpetrators' conduct and intent, and the consequences for the victim, certain emotional abuse and neglect cases are subject to criminal prosecution.
State criminal statutes, adult protective laws, and federal statutes such as Medicare define and establish penalties for abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults. Prosecution of perpetrators is rare, however, and may be hampered by several factors including victims' fear of retaliation, hesitancy to prosecute family members, or lack of capacity to describe the crime or perpetrator.
While there has been some increase in cases prosecuted (particularly in the area of nursing home abuse largely due to aggressiveness of Medicaid Fraud Units), justice for elder abuse victims requires continued specialized training for police officers and other first responders, district attorneys, victim/witness professionals, lawyers, and the courts.
Efforts are underway by the criminal justice system to improve response to elder abuse. Here in brief are some recent developments:
Learn more about State Elder Abuse Laws and Elder Justice
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Clearinghouse on Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly (CANE)
Training Library for APS and Elder Abuse
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