Protect Our Seniors

 COLUMBIA, SC - On Saturday, June 15, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM) is joining activists and communities around the world to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), bringing attention to the thousands of older persons who are abused, neglected, and exploited each year.

This day provides an opportunity to shine a brighter light on a type of abuse that is close to home but rarely acknowledged or treated: sexual violence against older men and women. It is estimated that only 30 percent of rape or sexual assault victims age 65 or older report to the police, much lower than reporting rates for younger people. A study of elder female sexual abuse victims found that 81 percent of the violence was committed by the primary caregiver, and 78 percent by family members. The true prevalence and rate of incidence of the sexual assault of older adults is unknown. (Read our latest blog post on steps we can take to end the silence surrounding elder abuse.)

Unfortunately, many older survivors of sexual assault or abuse are unaware of the support available in their communities - resources that could enable them to reach safety or begin the healing process.

STSM hopes to improve the plight of older survivors in the Midlands through our new Abuse in Later Life (ALL) Program, a three-year initiative funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The ALL Program is a cooperative agreement between STSM, the Lexington County Solicitor's Office, the West Columbia Police Department, and the Central Midlands Council of Governments/Area Agency on Aging. The program includes professional trainings and a diverse group of agencies that meets monthly to review policies for older survivors and decide how to improve services.

Through ALL, we are working more closely with groups that serve the elderly, training professionals on how to recognize and respond to elder abuse, and providing services and support tailored to older victims of sexual violence.

In 2013 so far, 65 survivors over the age of 50 have received assistance from STSM. Staff and volunteers have accompanied 13 survivors at the hospital and answered 14 hotline calls from men and women in this age group, while staff members have provided 17 crisis intervention and counseling sessions. As the Midlands population ages - and our growing community learns more about elder abuse and the professional help available - these numbers will likely increase. With strong community support, we will strive to answer the call and provide the hope and healing that every survivor deserves.  

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15

Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM), formerly named Rape Crisis Network, is a private, nonprofit, United Way member agency committed to providing free, direct services to survivors of sexual assault and abuse, including 24-hour crisis hotline, hospital accompaniment, court accompaniment, personal advocacy, individual and group counseling, and education about sexual trauma issues.