More elderly Pinoys risk abuse during pandemic, warns Commission on Human Rights

<i>Photo: Cristian Newman / Unsplash</i>
Photo: Cristian Newman / Unsplash

More senior citizens are facing the risk of being abused because they’re trapped indoors with their potential assaulters, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines warned the public today.

“Elder abuse, despite its seriousness, is an invisible issue in the Philippines,” Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

“We cannot stress enough how important this day is especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affects older people. During this unprecedented public health crisis, their health, and worse, their lives, are put at heightened risk,” the commissioner said.

“Around the world, there is emerging evidence that violence, abuse, and neglect of older persons increased due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In the country, we are still unaware of their actual situation within homes, institutions, and communities,” she said.

Gomez-Dumpit added that data on elder abuse is hardly available due to underreporting and limited research that focuses on the issue. She said that a study conducted in 2004 by the CHR in urban poor communities showed that around 40% of senior citizens experienced various forms of abuse, from physical to verbal.

“Perpetrators are most often children and other family members of older persons. Of those who experienced abuse, only 2% reported it to the authorities, while 11% turned to their families for support and 21% sought no support or refuge,” Gomez-Dumpit added.

Read: Filipino women and children became victims of violence during lockdown, says Duterte

According to the CHR official, stress, anxiety, and financial problems brought about by the current health crises also adds to the risk of abuse among elderly Filipinos. She noted that police intervention, health, and psychosocial services, and justice institutions that victims of abuse may resort to are either reduced or non-operational in the country because of the pandemic.

The commissioner urged families, communities, and older persons themselves to report any experiences of violence, abuse, and neglect to local government units and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Older persons have the right to be free from violence, abuse, and neglect,” she said.

“We encourage everyone to contact local authorities to report cases of elder abuse in their homes or communities. Exposing any form of abuse may well be the last thing that can save a life,” Gomez-Dumpit said.

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