OVERLAND PARK, KS — Verizon Wireless has joined forces with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the Wyandotte and Johnson County Area Agencies on Aging, and the Metropolitan Family Violence Coalition in an unprecedented collaboration to create a public education campaign aimed at raising awareness of elder abuse and encouraging victims to seek help. The education campaign was unveiled Wednesday at a press conference hosted by Mark Crumpton, presidentKansas/Missouri Region, Verizon Wireless, at the MARC headquarters. Participating in the press conference were Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sanders, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman and leaders of the Metropolitan Family Violence Coalition.
"Many people have the false impression that all victims of domestic violence are young women," said Verizon Wireless' Crumpton. "As our awareness campaign says, 'Abuse Ignores Age.' Abuse also ignores the boundaries of race, geography, religion or economic status."
The initial phase of the awareness program will include posters distributed to a variety of locations frequented by seniors, including assisted-living facilities, hospitals, doctors' offices, senior centers and places of worship. The posters feature 24-hour, free and private hotline telephone numbers for seniors in both Kansas and Missouri who may need help. In Kansas, the statewide hotline number is 800-922-5330. In Missouri, the number is 800-392-0210. "Verizon Wireless supports the efforts of area domestic violence organizations and agencies in preventing domestic violence, getting victims to safety and helping individuals rebuild their lives," Crumpton said. "With this campaign we are hoping to bring a greater focus on a segment of domestic violence victims who often go unnoticed by the general public, live in fear of isolation and are the most vulnerable among us-the elderly of our communities."
Crumpton cited national domestic violence reports documenting that elder abuse is "still largely hidden under the shroud of secrecy and is grossly under reported." (*National Center on Elder Abuse, Washington, D.C)
National and local data indicate that the reporting of elder abuse has risen as much as 150 percent in recent years, and adult children are often the most frequent abusers of seniors. Nationwide, victims number in the hundreds of thousands. In the Kansas City area, there are thousands of victims, most whose personal experience with abuse goes unreported. Some national studies indicate as few as one in 14 cases of domestic violence against the elderly are reported. (*National Center on Elder Abuse, Washington D.C.)
While neglect is the most common form of elder maltreatment, elder abuse also includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse and financial exploitation.
"Our statewide crisis hotline receives calls regularly from elderly members of our communities," said Paul Morrison, Johnson County District Attorney. "We know these calls are just the tip of the iceberg. After enduring years of abuse, many older people feel as if they have no other options, and are-frankly-just waiting for their abuser to die."
"We appreciate Verizon Wireless' efforts to increase awareness of the problem of elder abuse, and we hope more people will call the hotline as a result of this campaign," said Jackson County Prosecutor Michael Sanders. "There are options for elderly victims of abuse and this poster campaign enables us to give them the tools to know how and where to ask for help."
Leaders of local domestic violence organizations explained why many seniors do not seek help with their abusive relationships:
- They feel isolated and trapped by their age.
- They have financial and physical limitations.
- They have been immersed in the abusive situation for years, if not decades.
- They do not wish to report a family member to authorities.
- They believe they have failed as a parent "causing" the abuse to occur.
"Whatever age, everyone is entitled to dignity, personal safety and respect," said Katy Lamm, deputy director of the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging. "In Kansas City, there are growing numbers of community resources committed to helping mid-life and older persons who have been mistreated by loved ones."
According to Jerome A. Gorman, Wyandotte County District Attorney, "It is never easy for an older person to admit that he or she is being abused because societal pressures force him or her to remain silent. The elderly frequently don't ask for help because of their unwillingness to report loved ones, or as a result of physical and mental limitations caused by age. "
Crumpton said the campaign to raise public awareness about elder abuse is "the first step in helping abused seniors make that initial, critical call for assistance."
Organizations that are interested in receiving the posters can email their requests to: AbuseIgnoresAge@GL.VerizonWireless.com.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 42.1 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.