Justice for Chattanooga’s Elders

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and a recent report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation states there were 73,568 domestic violence offenses reported statewide in 2018, which is a 6% decrease from the year before — one of the largest decreases in recent years.

But the staff at the Family Justice Center (FJC) know there’s more work to be done and a growing group of people are in need of specialized help and resources. By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people aged 65 years and older and it’s estimated that more than 5 million elders in the United States have experienced abuse, but the research in this field is severely lacking compared to domestic violence and child abuse.

There is a national organization in New York City, Spring Alliance, working on creating shelter networks for victims of elder abuse; the Chattanooga FJC hosted the annual networking and professional development conference for this organization in 2018 and continues to work with the Alliance to promote solutions to elder abuse in our community.

“When we’re talking about abuse among elders it’s not just physical violence,” said Patti Childers, Family Justice Center, Office of Violence Against Women — Elder Justice Project Coordinator. “It can be physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and even abandonment and some of these things are really difficult to spot and find resources.”

The FJC was one group among four cities in the U.S. selected to receive the Abuse in Later Life Grant. The grant was awarded in 2017 and the FJC is in year three of the program, which will expire in 2020. It is funded by the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the grant focuses on the complex issue of abuse in later life.

“What we’re seeing with elder abuse is domestic violence grown old,” said Dr. Valerie Radu, executive director of the Family Justice Center. “People who experience various forms of abuse such as child abuse or domestic violence are often more vulnerable to be victims of elder abuse as they age. Through this OVW grant, we’re working to train people to spot potential elder abuse victims who often feel like they can’t or shouldn’t speak out because their perpetrators are people they love and trust, usually family members.”

Since receiving this grant the FJC’s Elder Justice team has trained more than 50 law enforcement officers and nearly 100 victim services advocates from elder service agencies, adult protective services, the City of Chattanooga, victim service organizations, mental health, medical, and court settings.

In the final year of the grant, the FJC hopes to train more law enforcement and engage area church volunteers to spot potential abuse among elders. Furthermore, the FJC has hired a Elder Justice Specialist/Clinical Liaison professional who provides support, assessments, and referrals in collaboration with law enforcement and non-profit agencies. If you live in Hamilton County and are concerned about an elder, you are encouraged to reach out to the FJC at (423) 643–7600 or email FJC@chattanooga.gov. You can also report suspected elder abuse at: 1–888-APS-TENN (1–888–277–8366) or https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/

The FJC is hosting a series of free conferences on elder abuse:

Additionally, this month the FJC was awarded a 3-year federal grant through the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) for $688,160 under the Transforming Family Justice Center Services: Creating New Pathways of Hope and Healing for Polyvictims.

“Virtually all forms of violence are interconnected and polyvictimization is the cumulative effect of numerous types of trauma over a lifespan of a survivor — child abuse, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, community-level violence, human trafficking, and elder abuse,” Dr. Radu, said. “This grant enhances the work we are already doing with community partners and allows us to expand the healing community we collaboratively offer by using an integrative approach. In addition to already existing counseling services, grant funding will provide individual and group sessions with providers using music, creative expression, trauma-informed yoga, and more.”

Oftentimes, elders are also poly-victims as well and this new grant will allow the FJC to incorporate more services and resources for those experiencing elder abuse.

All services offered through the FJC are free to any resident of the City or Hamilton County.

The FJC and City of Chattanooga encourage the public to participate in #PurpleThursday on October 24 by wearing purple to raise awareness for domestic violence.



#The423 has stories, photos, videos, and updates from throughout Chattanooga. Do you have something to say or share? Let us know at the423@chattanooga.gov.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
City of Chattanooga

#The423 has stories, photos, videos, and updates from throughout Chattanooga. Do you have something to say or share? Let us know at the423@chattanooga.gov.