CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston has launched a program to train law enforcement and local groups to identify and respond to elder abuse or mistreatment of older adults.
The "Ending Elder Abuse in Later Life" Project is funded through a grant the city was awarded from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
A Wallethub study ranked South Carolina one of the worst states for protections against elder abuse last year.
On Friday, the project kick-off took place at the MUSC College of Nursing.
Elder Abuse doesn't always mean physical abuse it can take many forms like verbal, neglect, check fraud, identity theft, scams and more.
Coordinator of the Mayor's Office on Aging for the City of Charleston, Jamie Roper, says one of the biggest problems is not only identifying the abuse but finding the services in the community for support.
"A lot of times people think that when you talk about abuse it's from an outside person a lot of the cases I see are people that are used by family members, caregivers, people who are close to them," Roper said.
The National Council on Aging reports that in nearly 60 percent of elder abuse cases the perpetrator is a family member and two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
It also reports that about one in 10 senior citizens experiences some form of elder abuse.
All City of Charleston Police officers will be trained on how to identify and respond to elder abuse. After that, the city plans to open it up to other departments in the area.
The training will include providing law enforcement with the tools to collect appropriate evidence for a prosecution and offer support and referrals to victims.
The goal is to increase community awareness of abuse in later life and the resources available to older victims of abuse.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg says 30 percent of Charlestonians are over the age of 50.
He also says on average 34 people move to the city every day and about 60 percent who move to Charleston are people who've retired.
"I'm hopeful by this room in what we are doing that we're not going to let the state laws keep us from doing the right thing," Tecklenburg said.
The event featured training lead by the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life. The session covered elder abuse victimization and how local leaders can create a coordinated response to address abuse in Charleston.
"I tell people if you suspect something is going on make it known to somebody, reach out," Roper said.
The training for officers will begin next year.
The three-year Ending Abuse in Later Life Project is implemented through a partnership among the City of Charleston Mayor's Office on Aging, Office of the City Prosecutor, the Charleston Police Department, My Sister's House, Trident Area Agency on Aging and the MUSC College of Nursing.