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Enough is Enough Breaking the Silence on Adult Abuse


By Christopher M. Noel, Marketing and Communications Intern, PATH

Imagine if every person living in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., and Delaware stood up and raised their hands at once. These individuals would be equivalent to the number of persons in America with a disability aged 18 and up. That is nearly 34 million citizens. The number of those aged 60 and over in America is nearly 57 million according to the latest U.S. Census report.

In Illinois, there are more than two million older adults and more than one million reported having a disability. These populations are at risk for maltreatment and abuse. The Bureau of Justice reported every 16 out of 1,000 individuals with a disability reported abuse in the United States. Illinois recorded 11,000 cases of abuse toward older adults in the 2011 fiscal year.

In 2013, Illinois expanded the Elder Abuse program to include adults aged 18-59 with disabilities. The new and extended program, now called the Adult Protective Services Act, combines these vulnerable populations. The Illinois Department on Aging integrated these populations in order to respond to more people in the community who are at risk of being abused, neglected, or exploited including older adults as well as adults with disabilities.

Adult Abuse is defined as any negligent act by a caregiver, family members, and others close to them. There are three general forms of cases which include abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of an at-risk adult. According to the Adult Protective Services Act, the types of abuse that fall within these categories include:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury upon an adult.
  • Sexual abuse: Touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an adult when the adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced.
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal assaults, threats of maltreatment, harassment, or intimidation.
  • Confinement: Restraining or isolating an adult (other than for medical reasons).
  • Passive neglect: Caregiver’s failure to provide an adult with life’s necessities, including — but not limited to — food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
  • Willful deprivation: Deliberate denial of goods and services such as: medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance and thereby exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm.
  • Financial exploitation: The misuse or withholding of an adult’s resources by another to the disadvantage of the adult person, or for the profit or advantage of someone else.

Understanding what the effects of adult abuse looks like is a key way to determine when to act. According to the National Protective Services Association, some of the warning signs of abuse or neglect are:

  • Disappearing from contact with neighbors, friends, or family
  • Bruising or welts on skin
  • Visible fingerprints or handprints on the face, neck, arms, or wrist
  • Burns
  • Cuts or puncture wounds
  • Sprains, fractures or dislocations
  • Internal injuries
  • Appearing with torn, stained, bloody clothing
  • Appearing disheveled, in soiled or climate inappropriate attire
  • Appearing malnourished or confused

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported the number of older adults is on the rise as the “baby boomer” generation reaches the at-risk age range and is expected to increase at an unprecedented rate.  These populations are getting a voice by citizens speaking up for them and the “Enough is Enough” campaign, initiated by the Illinois Department on Aging, which creates awareness of adult abuse.

It is time to say Enough is Enough.

Providing Access to Help (PATH) facilitates reporting of adult abuse through the 211 hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reporting adult abuse is confidential and you may remain anonymous. To report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult with disabilities aged 18–59 or older adults aged 60 and up living in McLean and Livingston counties, call toll-free at 1-866-800-1409 or dial 211. For more information about Adult Protective Services, contact APS Supervisor Jessica Bury at 309-834-0511.

Photo credit: Chepko/iStock