Information about Abuse

What is Abuse?

Physical Abuse includes slapping, hitting, bruising, beating or any other intentional act that causes someone physical pain, injury or suffering. Physical abuse also includes excessive forms of restraint used to confine someone against their will (i.e., tying, chaining or locking someone in a room).

Emotional Abuse is threatening, intimidating or humiliating an individual and causing them emotional pain, distress or anguish. Emotional abuse can be verbal or non-verbal; it includes insults, yelling and threats of harm or isolation.

Sexual Abuse is any sexual activity to which the older or dependent adult does not consent or is incapable of consenting. Non-consensual sexual activity includes everything from exhibitionism to sexual intercourse.

Financial or Material Exploitation is when someone misuses, mishandles or exploits the elderly or dependent adult's property, possessions or financial assets. This includes using those assets without the individual's consent or manipulating the older or dependent adult for the financial benefit or material gain of another.

Neglect takes place when, intentionally or unintentionally, a caregiver fails to support the physical, emotional and social needs of the older or dependent adult. Neglect can include denying food or medication, health services or contact with friends and family. Neglect is the most common form of elder mistreatment in domestic settings.

Isolation means any of the following:

  1. Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing, and that do serve to prevent, an elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls.
  2. Telling a caller or prospective visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not present, or does not wish to talk with the caller, or does not wish to meet with the visitor where the statement is false, is contrary to the express wishes of the elder or the dependent adult, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having contact with family, friends, or concerned persons.
  3. False imprisonment, as defined in Section 236 of the Penal Code.
  4. Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult, for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent from meeting with visitors.

Abandonment occurs when a caregiver deserts the elderly or dependent person.

Self-Neglect requires intervention when elderly or dependent adults fail to meet their own physical, psychological or social needs or they threaten their health or safety in any way. Often times, physical or mental illness, isolation or substance abuse prevent elderly or dependent adults from being able to take care of their own basic needs.

Why does abuse go unreported?

Often people don't know when or where to go for help. In other cases, denial, fear or shame keeps abuse a secret. The only real shame is not reporting a case of possible abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Adult Protective Services provides assistance 24-hours a day to elderly and dependent individuals who are victims of physical, emotional or financial harm or abuse.

Who are Mandated Reporters?

Everyone should report all observed, known or suspected incidents of adult abuse, but the following individuals are required by law (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15630) to report:

"Any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for care or custody of an elder or dependent adult, whether or not that person receives compensation, including administrators, supervisors, and any licensed staff of a public or private facility that provides care or services for elder or dependent adults, or any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner, or employee of a county adult protective services agency or a local law enforcement agency is a mandated reporter."

"Any mandated reporter who, in his or her professional capacity, or within the scope of his or her employment, has observed or has knowledge of an incident that reasonably appears to be physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or is told by an elder or dependent adult that he or she has experienced behavior constituting physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or reasonably suspects abuse shall report the known or suspected instance of abuse by telephone immediately or as soon as possible, and by written report sent within two working days."

Mandated reporters must report any incident of alleged or suspected abuse, or a reasonable suspicion of abuse, which comes to their attention. As a mandated reporter, they are required to give their name. If they report something they learn about outside of work they could report it anonymously. All reports should be made immediately, or as soon as practically possible by telephone and mail (or fax) of the written report within 2 working days of learning the information.

Mandated reporters include, but are not limited to:

  1. Health care practitioners; e.g. doctors, dentists, nurses, therapists, and their office staff
  2. Members of the clergy when they receive information about alleged or suspected abuse NOT within the context of a "penitential communication."
  3. Adult personal care providers, e.g. attendants, day care staff, senior center staff
  4. Adult and Child Protective Services staff
  5. All staff of Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services Department having client contact
  6. Law Enforcement Officers
  7. Medical Examiners