Senior Circles: More male victims of domestic abuse than you might think

October has come and gone but there is still more information to pass on about domestic violence and older adults that I wasn't able to include in my last column. October was dedicated to domestic violence awareness and I brought this issue to light in my column, "Older adults also can be victims of domestic violence," dated Oct. 18.

Sgt. Tanya Riffle is the supervisor in charge of the Howard County Police Department's Domestic Violence Section, of the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Sgt. Riffle provided the following statement and statistics on older adult victims of domestic violence in Howard County.

"The Howard County Police Department does not differentiate domestic assaults between age groups, sex, race or sexual orientation. Domestic assault is a crime and we will not differentiate this from other criminal activities. Domestic assaults will be investigated, suspects will be arrested (whenever the law authorizes) and victims will be referred for assistance and counseling as needed. The Howard County Police Department works with the Domestic Violence Center for Howard County to coordinate efforts in getting victims and offenders the assistance they need.

"Between August 2011 and August 2012, there were 221 domestic assaults where the victim was over the age of 60. Of the 221 assaults, 118 were female victims and 103 were male victims. The Howard County Police Department encourages all victims to contact the police department, file a report and inquire about available services."

I was surprised at the number of male victims. I think that most of us think of women as the only victims of domestic violence. The number of cases of male victims is close to that of female victims in the county.

A Mayo Clinic staff article reported that domestic violence against men is not always easy to recognize. In the early part of the relationship, the partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that turn out to be controlling and frightening. Initially, the abuse might be isolated incidents; the partner apologizes and promises not to be abusive again.

In other relationships, domestic violence against men might include both partners slapping or shoving each other when they get angry, with neither partner seeing himself or herself as being abused or controlled. This type of violence can cause physical and emotional damage, devastating the relationship. I think these same types of relationship behaviors might also apply to domestic violence among same sex partners.

Vanita Leatherwood, the director of Community Engagement with the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, who was a major contributor to the Oct. 18 Senior Circles column, sent me a press release on new funding for the Domestic Violence Center. The DVC was awarded $47,680 through a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention for its abuser intervention program, New Behaviors.

Program director of New Behaviors Brian Jobe said, "I am both excited and encouraged that the New Behaviors program received this grant. Far too often the role of prevention is not given enough attention in domestic violence work. The goal of an Abuser Intervention Program is to reduce current and future harm to victims by helping perpetrators take responsibility for their abusive behaviors and to help them replace those behaviors with healthier relationships skills."

DVC Executive Director Jennifer Pollitt Hill added that this substantial monetary award is an indicator of the strength of the New Behaviors program.

The Abuser Intervention Program offers separate counseling programs for men and women to decrease behaviors of intimate partner violence and also includes a 20-week program focusing on increasing coping skills, active listening and effective communication in the context of intimate relationships.

We've moved on to November, which is dedicated to Alzheimer's Disease Awareness. I have covered Alzheimer's and dementia in previous columns, so here I would like to encourage you to offer your support to individuals who suffer from Alzheimer's and their families and caregivers. Currently 5.4 million people in the United States are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so each one of us is bound to know someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in this country.

In President Obama's proclamation declaring November as National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, he mentions his administration's release in May of the first National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease. The plan focuses on Alzheimer's prevention and treatment, using a comprehensive, collaborative approach by engaging public, private and nonprofit partners. Investments have been made in research and clinical trials, searching for future therapies.

Information and resources about the disease are available to all Americans, especially those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Training is being provided to health care providers to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and care for those who suffer from it.

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