A new eight-bill bipartisan package was introduced to the house today to help protect elders from abuse and give harsher punishments to abusers.
Lansing State Representative, Sarah Anthony, is one of the representatives included in the bill and says that she wants to send a message to elderly people who face abuse.
“We also want to empower senior citizens and that they have a tool in their tool box, and that the awareness piece i think is really important, and that it’s not uncommon for this to happen so folks are not alone,” said Anthony.
The bill also will strengthen the punishments for people who are convicted of abusing the elderly. They could face heavy fines and even jail time.
“Our baby boomers, some of the greatest folks in the generation, they deserve people and they deserve the penalties to hit hard. We don’t want people to think it’s okay to take advantage of senior citizens so I think I think that having some really strict punishments is a good way to do that,” said Anthony.
Anthony says studies have shown that reports of elder abuse are on the rise, but there’s still a big amount of cases that go unreported.
“There’s a lot of embarrassment, a lot of shame, a lot of pride, but this will allow our prosecutors to say you know we’ll step in, where others may not feel comfortable in doing so,” said Anthony.
Retired Lansing Police Lieutenant, Traci Ruiz, specialized in elder abuse, sexual assault and domestic abuse crimes, says whether it’s mental, physical, finance or sexual, it’s never easy for people to speak up.
“It takes a lot for a senior citizen to say something so at the time when they’re coming to us as police and saying, I would train our other officers to say its a big deal,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz added that mental abuse is harder to prove in court and one of the most dangerous forms of abuse.
“I’ve had many victims over the years tell me that they’ve been mentally abused, but they wish they could have just been beaten and had it over, because the mental anguish is much worse,” said Ruiz.
It’s also harder for people to come forward that have been mentally abused because they are in disbelief.
“When there’s mental abuse going on in the home, they’re told repeatedly that they’re stupid and that no one is going to believe them, so many of them, just like a domestic violence victim, starts to believe the words that they hear,” said Ruiz.