When most people think of domestic violence, they picture an abusive man who is terrorizing his wife and/or children. According to Washington state law RCW 10.99.020, domestic violence is defined as a criminal act committed against a family or household member and includes crimes like physical violence, neglect, emotional abuse, and economic control. So, it can be any household or family member, including an elder member of the family. When this happens, abuse intertwines laws related to domestic abuse and what's known as elder abuse in Washington State.
Elder Abuse in Washington State
RCW 74.34.020 defines elder abuse as
the willful action or inaction that inflicts injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment on a vulnerable adult. In instances of abuse of a vulnerable adult who is unable to express or demonstrate physical harm, pain, or mental anguish, the abuse is presumed to cause physical harm, pain, or mental anguish. Abuse includes sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, and personal exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and improper use of restraint against a vulnerable adult.
Vulnerable adults are anyone over the age of 60 who cannot take care of themselves due to a physical, functional, or mental issue.
In many cases, a person can be both a victim of domestic abuse and elder abuse, if the harm being caused to them is from a family or household member. A lot of elder abuse cases can occur in institutions that are supposed to care for an elderly or vulnerable person (such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and rehab facilities), but many older citizens still live at home with a family member who helps take care of them--either a spouse, child, or other relative. This can include a grandchild who moves in to help but steals their grandparent's Social Security check every month or a husband who withholds medication from his wife.
Washington and U.S. See an Increase in Elder Abuse
The SW Washington Elderly Abuse Prevention organization provides some examples of elder abuse that might also be considered domestic abuse if it involves a family or household member:
Denying access to money or economic support; preventing victim from eating, sleeping, or leaving their residence; threatening or abusing the older adult's pet; threatening to injure or kill older adult's loved ones; verbal humiliation; treating the older adult like a child; falsely claiming the person is suffering from dementia.
As the elderly population grows every year in this country, so do the number of reported cases of elderly abuse. In 2017, over 713,000 cases of suspected elder abuse were conducted in the U.S., according to the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. In Washington, that number went from 19,000 cases in 2012 to 49,000 cases in 2017.
Domestic Violence Attorney Steve Karimi
If you have been accused of domestic violence and elder abuse against a loved one, you can expect to be investigated by both Adult Protective Services and the police. You will need a seasoned attorney by your side to defend your actions and your rights. Call 206-621-8777 or contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today to learn how they can assist you.