Physical, psychological, sexual, financial, verbal violences, neglect, humiliation, deprivation… Abuse is a difficult phenomenon to understand because of the variety of forms it can take. As the elderly are a particularly vulnerable group, they are regularly victims of abuse, sometimes without even realizing it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse “consists of a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate intervention, occuring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
A 2017 review of various studies in 28 countries estimated that in the past year, one in six (15.7%) people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings.
This form of violence has serious consequences for the people who are victims, both physical and psychological, such as social isolation.
In France, there is an official definition of abuse in the legal code only since February 2022. This is the result of a national consensus process 2019-2020, led by the National Commission for the fight against abuse and the promotion of good treatment, in which many institutional and associative actors participated, including the Petits Frères des Pauvres, to arrive at a common definition. Thus, abuse is defined as follows:
“Abuse within the meaning of this code refers to any person in a vulnerable situation when a gesture, word, action or failure to act compromises or undermines his or her development, rights, basic needs or health and when this undermining occurs in a relationship of trust, dependence, care or support. Situations of abuse can be one-time or long-term, intentional or not. It can be individual, collective or institutional in origin. Violence and neglect can take many forms and be organized within these situations.” Article L119-1 of the Social Action and Family Code
It allows actors who work with vulnerable people to better identify situations of abuse, and to know how to react and alert.
It is essential to raise public awareness of the abuse to which the elderly may be exposed, since it is often committed by the victim’s family or caregivers, intentionally or not. Since 2012, the UN has decided to set up the Elder Abuse Awareness Day, on June 15th, in order to alert public opinion to this problem, which is likely to increase due to the aging of the world population.