I placed the call. A woman answered, amid howling wind.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“I’m outside by the truck.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s inside, asleep.”
Thus, began my interview with a woman in her 70’s who wanted assistance
with a divorce.
She told me she had been isolated in her rural area for many years. Her husband worked long hours and had
left her without transportation into town. She lived without running water. He would haul water home for the
animals’ baths. She had no friends, just her animals. They were her anchors, her way of holding on. “The way I
have been living is insane”, she said. She said that her husband had pulled a knife on her the week before.
She did not report it to the police. He had told her that if she did report him, he would lose his job, and she
would be left with nothing. I advised that Nevada is community property state, and that she was entitled to
half of the community since they had been married and living in Nevada. “But you must be safe before we
can assist you, and I’m going to give you a number to call for some help.”
Eventually, after law enforcement intervened, her husband left the residence. She is still tentative and a bit
shaken, but ready to move forward now that she has a protective order and some support. She wanted her
story told because many elders keep secret incidents of domestic violence— out of shame, denial, fear, or
sheer resignation. The “golden years” most people typically think about can be fraught with intimate partner
violence not shared because of being embarrassed to say, “Grandpa beat me up”, or “Grandma pushed me
down”. She wants others who may be experiencing a similar ordeal to seek help.
Domestic Violence and the Elderly
Domestic violence involves power and control. Although we typically think of it as battery or assault, there
are more subtle forms of abuse, including gaslighting, threats of impoverishment, financial exploitation,
isolation, abandonment, and psychological manipulation. 1 Although most domestic violence occurs in ages
25-34, domestic violence in ages 60 and over continues to be a problem in most reporting Nevada counties. 2
Dependence on the abuser for transportation or other benefits may prevent reporting. Some may fear
retaliation or do not want to get their abuser in trouble with the law. 3
All states can punish those who perpetrate assault, fraud, theft, or other crimes in their criminal codes.
Nevada has a specific section of its penal code dedicated to the protection against crimes and neglect of
elders and vulnerable adults. Nevada’s policy is “to provide for the cooperation of law enforcement officials,
courts of competent jurisdiction and all appropriate state agencies providing human services in identifying
the abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation and abandonment of older persons and vulnerable persons through
the complete reporting of abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation and abandonment of older persons and
vulnerable persons.” 4
Nevada’s codification of laws targeting elder abuse is meant to increase communication between reporting
agencies so that the worst cases are prosecuted, and the possibilities of positive outcomes are enhanced.
Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates vulnerable adult abuse, as does law enforcement. There are four
offices, in Las Vegas, Carson City, Elko and Washoe counties. Their numbers are 888-729-0571 or
702-486-6930. If there is imminent danger, local law enforcement should be called. For weekend or holiday
reports, callers are given an option to be directed to the Crisis Call Center where trained staff will take
reports of older or vulnerable person abuse and refer to the Aging and Disabilities Services Division of the
State of Nevada the next business day. Staff are also trained to assess imminent danger and to call law
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Purple is a symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor, and
dedication to ending violence, and the ribbon is a way of promoting awareness and honoring the efforts of
those who work to end it.
If you want to be part of this effort, check your local newspaper and media for events taking place in your
*1 Nevada Coalition to End Domestic Violence. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/InterimCommittee/REL/Document/26748
*2 Nevada Crime Statistics. https://nevadacrimestats.nv.gov/tops/
*3 NOTE: The Silent Generation: Removing Barriers to Addressing Intimate Partner Violence Among the Elderly, 29 Elder L.J. 181,191.(2021)
*4 NRS 200.5091 Policy of State.