Program Wins against Violence

Article excerpt

Mary, who appears on screen in her 80s, describes injuries inflicted by her husband of more than 50 years. The powerful videotaped interview helps dispel the common beliefs that older women either do not experience this type of abuse, or cannot or will not act on their own behalf. The late octogenarian's story of her effort to start a new life free of violence continues via video to humanize situations like hers for professionals in aging and related fields-professionals who are being trained by Boston's SAGE (Stop Abuse, Gain Empowerment) organization and its Collaborative to End Intimate Partner Abuse Among Older Women. The program was one of the winners of the American Society on Aging's 2005 Healthcare and Aging Network Awards, sponsored by the Pfizer Medical Humanities initiative.

Most domestic violence services are designed for younger women and their children, and most protective services are focused on elder abuse and neglect, not on domestic violence by an intimate partner. In 1999, a small group of Boston health and service professionals gathered to explore how to break down barriers impeding their efforts to respond to older women experiencing intimate partner abuse. The collaborative, which meets monthly, now includes about 50 organizations, among them governmental agencies, advocacy groups, hospitals and senior centers.

Representatives from criminal justice, domestic violence advocacy programs and elder service agencies, in partnership with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, developed teams of experts from domestic violence and aging services. They copresent a shared curriculum incorporating lessons from both disciplines. These innovative, train-the-trainer workshops aim to build community capacity to improve services for older women in abusive relationships. …