According to the National Institute of Justice, older adult abuse and neglect have historically been understudied and underreported problems in criminal law. This is partly because of:
- A lack of uniform reporting systems
- Unreliable data
- Varying definitions of older adult abuse across jurisdictions
- Older adult victims are afraid to report the abuse
- Lack of access to the criminal justice system
However, crimes against older adults are a serious and growing concern. According to a National Council on Aging study, one in 10 older adults reported that they experienced:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse or mistreatment
- Unwanted sexual contact
- Neglect or self-neglect
- Financial abuse
- Financial exploitation or scams
- Domestic violence
Abuse can come from health care providers, nursing home staff, strangers, or even loved ones. If you or someone you know is facing abuse, contact Adult Protective Services (APS) or local law enforcement officers.
Elder Abuse Victims Act (EAVA) History
The Elder Abuse Victims Act (EAVA) was introduced in 2009. At its core, it was a legislative effort to address the growing problem of crimes against older people.
Although the House of Representatives passed a version of EAVA in 2009, it was never voted on in the Senate and failed to become law.
The EAVA was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in 2013. It did not pass either chamber and has not been enacted into law.
What Did EAVA Hope To Do?
The Elder Abuse Victims Act was designed to protect the rights of older adult victims of crime. It wanted to strengthen efforts to criminally prosecute older adult abuse cases.
The Elder Abuse Victims Act would have built upon the related Elder Justice Act (EJA), which became law in 2010. The EJA:
- Coordinated federal and state responses to older adult abuse in general
- Expanded reporting requirements and civil penalties
The 2013 version of EAVA wanted to specifically:
- Enhance the capacity to criminally prosecute older adult abuse cases
- Assure the collection, research, and evaluation of data relating to such cases
The Office of Elder Justice
The 2013 Elder Abuse Victims Act wanted to create an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
That office was proposed to link the DOJ's expertise in older adult abuse with the experience of state and local prosecutors working on older adult abuse cases throughout the country.
Specifically, the Office of Elder Justice would have been responsible for the following:
- Providing information, training, and technical assistance to states and local governments to investigate and prosecute older adult abuse and to address the trauma suffered by victims
- Evaluating the effectiveness of efforts to prevent, detect, respond to or remedy older adult abuse
- Determining the best practices for investigating older adult abuse, addressing common evidentiary and legal issues, and interacting with victims
- Providing regular updates on state laws and practices relating to older adult abuse
While the Office of Elder Justice was not created, the DOJ does have the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).
EAVA Policy on Data Collection
The 2013 EAVA would have also required the Attorney General, on an annual basis, to collect data on older adult abuse cases from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
The EAVA would then require the Attorney General to identify common data points to develop a uniform national database on older adult abuse cases.
EAVA Grant Funding For States
The 2013 Elder Abuse Victims Act wanted to authorize the Office of Elder Justice to provide grants for up to fifteen states. These grants would have established and operated programs to improve their:
- Responses to older adult abuse
- Investigations and prosecutions of older adult abuse cases
However, the grants would have required such states to have the following:
- Programs for compensating crime victims
- Multidisciplinary task forces to review and evaluate investigative, administrative, and judicial responses to older adult abuse cases
Other Support To States
Although the EAVA will not be enacted into law, the Department of Justice currently operates the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).
This initiative provides resources for:
- Older adult victims of abuse
- Legal professionals who assist older adults
- Caregivers and medical professionals who assist older adults
- State and local law enforcement agencies
- Prosecutors (including sample pleadings and references to relevant state statutes covering crimes against older adults)
For family members seeking additional resources on older adult abuse, see FindLaw's Older Adult Abuse Overview and Dealing With Older Adult Abuse.
See FindLaw's Reporting Older Adult Abuse or the National Center on Elder Abuse for information on reporting older adult abuse.
If you are unsure where to start, contact an attorney to discuss the situation and the steps you need to take.