POLICE Department

Family Violence Unit - Elder Abuse

In 1996, based on state reporting data, there were between 820,000 and 1,860,000 abused elders in the country. It is widely accepted that these data help to illuminate the seriousness of the problem; however, no one can say exactly how many cases of elder abuse there are in this country each year. (Types of Elder Abuse in Domestic Settings, International report written by Toshiro Tatara, Ph.D. and Lisa M. Kuzmeskus, M.A. for the National Center on Elder Abuse Grant No. 90-am-0660 Washington, DC: May 1996; update by the National Center on Elder Abuse, March, 1999.)

The Family Violence Unit interacts with Adult Protective Services by investigating elder abuse which is a distinct crime of negligence, exploitation, and physical abuse commonly perpetrated by caregivers. A common misconception is to presume that elderly victims reporting violence become classified into the category of "elder abuse" simply because of their age. The Family Violence Unit does distinguish between the two crimes. Elderly victims of family violence who have chosen not to leave their abusive partners face the same dynamics as their younger counterparts. Elderly abusers become experienced in covering up their assaults by portraying the victim as being "mentally ill" or having a medical condition.

Elderly victims who have kept the violence hidden away from their children and finally acknowlege they have been abused may not be believed by their adult children. They are also discouraged by their adult children and family members who view their leaving the abuser as "abandonment".

Elderly women victims who have devoted their lives being homemakers may have no marketable job skills. They may also find it difficult to sustain themselves solely with a minimum wage job without supplemental Social Security or pension checks. Elderly victims may not have personal access to shared finances such as joint bank accounts, life insurance, or medical insurance coverage. Elderly victims who tolerate the abuse are afraid they will become destitute if they decide to leave without the appropriate financial support. All of these barriers prevent elderly victims from reporting the crime or asking for assistance.

Younger victims of domestic violence have a greater amount of choices to make and the flexibility to change their lifestyles when they leave abusive relationships whereas the choices for elderly victims of domestic violence are limited due to social and economic obstacles.

The Family Violence Unit recognizes that elderly victims of domestic violence have the same needs as the younger victim of domestic violence if not a greater need due to their vulnerability and the barriers they face.


Legal Definition - 1995-1996 Texas Penal Code Chapter 22. Assaultive Offenses, 22.04. Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual.
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission, causes to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual:
(1) serious bodily injury;
(2) serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or
(3) bodily injury.
Child means a person 14 years of age or younger.
"Elderly individual" means a person 65 years of age or older.
"Disabled individual" means a person older than 14 years of age who by reason of age or physical or mental disease, defect, or injury is substantially unable to protect himself from harm or to provide food, shelter, or medical care for himself.

For more information, check the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services

To report child or elderly abuse call: 1-800-252-5400