SeniorLAW Center

PROJECT S.A.F.E. (“Stop Abuse and Financial Exploitation”)

Working to end and prevent various forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation of the elderly through direct services, educational workshops, and professional outreach.

Launched in September 1996 with the award of an Independence Foundation Public Interest Fellowship, Project S.A.F.E. (“Stop Abuse and Financial Exploitation”) concentrates on the areas of elder abuse, domestic violence, and financial exploitation, providing the following services for elderly victims:

  • Free legal representation and counsel to end abusive situations
  • Community education and outreach to help prevent abuse and exploitation
  • Professional education and training to sensitize those working with elders
  • Advocacy to help stem the crisis of elder abuse
  • Partnerships with victim services colleagues, law enforcement, protective services and others interested stopping elder abuse

SeniorLAW Center is proud to pursue protection and responses to domestic violence, financial exploitation, and other forms of abuse against older Pennsylvanians.  Although as many as five million elders are abused each year in the United States, it is estimated that 84% of elder abuse cases are never reported. (“Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence in Later Life,” ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, 2007).  In two-thirds of reports to Adult Protective Services (APS), the victim is an older or disabled woman (“Elder Abuse, A Woman’s Issue,” Older Women’s League, 2009).  Older victims are less likely than younger women to call a domestic violence program, and there is no mandatory reporting of elder abuse in Pennsylvania except in care settings.

Domestic violence and sexual violence know no age limits. Domestic elder abuse is mainly family abuse, a significant portion of which involves spousal violence and violence by adult children and grandchildren.  According to facts sheets of both the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence PCADV), abuse in later life is often long-term abuse:  elder abuse is often called “domestic violence grown old.”  While the forms of abuse experienced by older victims are similar to those of younger victims, older victims can be more isolated and dependent upon their abusers due to physical infirmity.  Older victims who are dependent upon their abusers may fear that if they seek help they will be placed in a nursing home and lose their independence. Traditional shelters for women who are abused are not designed for older victims, and their services do not meet their needs for care.

Sexual abuse is the least reported form of elder abuse.  Only 1% of reports made to APS are for sexual abuse although the incidence is thought to be much higher.  Many rapes and other sexual abuses of older women occur in long term care facilities.  A Virginia study found that nearly 71% of older victims were assaulted in nursing homes, nearly 15% in the home of a perpetrator, and just over 12% in their own homes. (Barriers to and Promising Practice for Collaboration Between Adult Protective Services and Domestic Violence Programs, NCEA, 2007).

The fact that elderly victims of abuse and exploitation have little access to assistance and counsel further exacerbates their plight, often leaving them to choose between enduring abusive relationships in their homes or becoming homeless.  The thousands of elderly victims of abuse and financial exploitation that we have assisted have often also been robbed of their savings, possessions, even household necessities by their abusers — and left without adequate resources for food, clothing, and shelter.  SeniorLAW Center enables these needy seniors to gain protection from abuse and restitution from those who exploit them financially, and connect them not only with resources to address their legal needs, but also to address their life needs…helping to put their lives back together.

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