Older individuals can become victims of domestic violence just as, if not more easily than others, particularly as they become dependent on others for care. They may be victimized by a spouse, partner or companion, or the abuse may occur at the hands of a child or sibling.
Regardless of who their abuser is, the result can be frightening and isolating. Abusers of older individuals often use their power and control to gain a benefit for themselves, such as money, a place to live, or access to prescription medication. Some of the unique challenges and abuse tactics that older survivors may experience include:
- Reduced income and financial resources
- Loss of health insurance or benefits
- Having medication or care withheld or threatened to be withheld
- Having finances controlled, mismanaged or exploited
- Being threatened with loss of autonomy (e.g., placement in nursing facility)
- When abused by a child, a desire to protect the child over concern for their own well-being
Immigrant and refugee survivors can face a host of unique challenges and barriers from their legal status, to language barriers, to extreme isolation exacerbated by their distance from family and friends. These barriers may not only make it harder for an immigrant survivor to seek help, but can also make it more challenging to work toward solutions once they are identified.
Some of the additional challenges that immigrant and refugee survivors may contend with include:
- Not being allowed to learn English
- Having access to family, friends and community supports restricted or eliminated
- Having immigration documents withheld and being prevented from seeking legal status
- Being threatened with deportation and/or loss of child custody
- Being provided with false information about systems intended to help, such as law enforcement, doctors, advocates, etc.
- Threatening violence against family in your home country
It doesn’t matter if the abuse happened for the first time when you came to this country, or if it happened before arriving and has continued. The services provided by CCADV’s 18 member organizations and Safe Connect are available to all immigrant survivors, including those who are undocumented.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community experience domestic violence at the same or higher rates than heterosexual, cisgender individuals. Reported rates of abuse are highest among transgender individuals and bisexual women. Stigma, marginalization and poverty make
LGBTQIA+ individuals more vulnerable to experiencing domestic violence, while fear of discrimination and threats of “outing” prevent many LGBTQIA+ survivors from reporting abuse or seeking help. LGBTQIA+ survivors can face several unique types of abusive behaviors and challenges to accessing services, such as:
- Threats to “out” them to family, friends and employers
- Guilt that they will make the LGBTQIA+ community “look bad” if they report the abuse
- Purposeful misgendering or incorrect use of pronouns
- Denied access to hormones
- Lack of access to support networks if they have been rejected by family or friends
- Homophobia and transphobia by individuals and systems intended to help survivors
Women of color have long faced increased rates of abuse coupled with cultural and institutional barriers to accessing services. There is no denying that the long history of embedded and systemic racism in the United States has left communities of color particularly vulnerable to the control and coercion at the center of domestic violence.
Survivors from communities of color are often under-represented in all areas of decision-making and are subsequently underserved. While different races and cultures experience specific needs and barriers, some common challenges among survivors of color include:
Cultural and/or religious beliefs that justify the abuse and restrain the survivor from leaving or involving outsiders Fear of rejection by family, friends, congregation and community Fear that discussing the abuse will confirm myths and stereotypes Mistrust of the criminal justice system due to a continued history of violence, over-criminalization and over-incarceration targeting communities of color Lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services Lack of advocates or helping professionals who look like them or can identify with them
- Cultural and/or religious beliefs that justify the abuse and restrain the survivor from leaving or involving outsiders
- Fear of rejection by family, friends, congregation and community
- Fear that discussing the abuse will confirm myths and stereotypes
- Mistrust of the criminal justice system due to a continued history of violence, over-criminalization and over-incarceration targeting communities of color
- Lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services
- Lack of advocates or helping professionals who look like them or can identify with them
Individuals with social, sensory & physical disabilities have a higher lifetime prevalence of experiencing abuse when compared to people without disabilities.
Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner control of reproductive and sexual healthcare and decisions. Survivors with disabilities may face barriers to accessing service due to communication, isolation, physically inaccessible locations, and misguided beliefs about the existence of domestic violence among this community.
Some of the unique forms of abuse that individuals with social, sensory and physical disabilities experience include:
- Withholding, damaging, or destroying assistive devices
- Guilt that the caregiver is overburdened + the abuse is something you just have to deal with.
- Withholding or threatening to withhold medication, care or assistance with daily life tasks
- Stealing Social Security Disability checks
- Harming or threatening to harm a service animal
- Unwanted and inappropriate touching when being assisted with bathing, dressing, etc.