Sexual Violence Against Elders in American Indian/Alaskan Native Communities
Who is an Elder?
Reporting of Elder Sexual Abuse:
Adult Protective Services and tribal law enforcement should be notified immediately in cases where elder sexual abuse is suspected. If no Adult Protective Services program exists in the Tribe, state Adult Protective Services agencies may be contacted to provide services for the elderly victim. Adult Protective Services may be able to place an elder in temporary shelter and/or create a plan of care to ensure continued safety and well-being. Unfortunately, domestic violence shelters are often not equipped with the resources or training necessary to respond to the safety and health needs of elderly victims.
Civil and Criminal Proceedings
A report of sexual abuse may trigger both criminal and civil proceedings in tribal courts. Civil proceedings in elder sexual abuse cases may include protective orders, guardianship proceedings, and conservator proceedings. Tribes may criminally prosecute Indians who commit elder abuse on tribal lands. Non-Indians who commit acts of elder abuse may be tribally prosecuted by a VAWA 2013 compliant tribe provided the victim was an intimate partner, former intimate partner, or in a former dating relationship with the defendant.
Challenges for Tribal Communities Combating Elder Sexual Abuse
Tribal leaders have identified three major challenges in addressing elder sexual abuse:
A lack of codes addressing elder sexual abuse issues.
A lack of policies and procedures for tribal agencies handling elder sexual abuse issues.
A need for increased training on elder sexual abuse, abuse, and neglect.