World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: EU States must reinforce Victim’s Rights!

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 15 June, we call for BINDING standards to ensure better protection for victims of elder abuse across EU countries.

The prevalence and ways to prevent abuse against older people specifically are not enough known or researched. The EU recently proposed reinforcing the rights of victims of crime, in a Directive which the outgoing European Parliament has improved in some respects. Now it is on EU Member States to build strong protections so that all persons can age in dignity and be supported in their rights.

Forms and prevalence of elder abuse

The World Health Organisation estimates that one in six people over 60 years have experienced some form of abuse in community settings within one year. A research project in five Member States in 2010 established prevalence of violence against women over 60 at 28%. Abuse and neglect can take various forms and affect all profiles of older persons: persons with health conditions and persons in good health, people living at home and those living in institutions, people living alone as well as people living with family. Violence, abuse and neglect can take the form of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial maltreatment. . There is a strong gender and disability element, as more older women than men have a need for care, which is a significant risk factor, or might be living alone or at risk of social isolation.

Luckily, some knowledge exists about which kind of interventions can work to support victims of abuse: The MARVOW 2.0 project, in which we are involved, specifically works to support older women victims of violence through multi-agency collaboration among different relevant sectors (care for older people, protection and social services, judiciary, police etc,).Possible advances for Victim’s rights in the EU

The Victim’s Rights Directive concerns all victims of crime, no matter their age. However, it contains important safeguards that can help older persons who become victims, such as access to legal or social support. The European Commission has recently called for a revision of the current directive from 2012, to improve victims’ rights to information, set up a European helpline number 116 006 to help victims of crime, or to improve access to compensation from an offender. In 2020, the Commission also adopted a Victim’s Rights Strategy, to improve the rights of victims, such as the support to the most vulnerable victims.

The European Parliament has recently agreed on its position in the legislative process, proposing easier and safer ways to report crime, free legal aid for victims who cannot pay for their own legal assistance, training of public authorities, awareness-raising and protection from secondary victimisation and glorification of past crimes.

Member States have now to better support Victims!

However, last week, the Member States, within the Council of the EU, have adopted an approach which significantly lowers the protection standards relative to the Commission’s and the Parliament proposals! In essence, the Council’s approach reduces the increased standards to options that Member States ‘can’ provide, rather than making them mandatory. Now the Council needs to negotiate with the European Parliament to find a common text.

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day specifically, we call on all Member States to find an agreement with the European Parliament that makes better standards for victims mandatory, including older victims!

Useful links

Events around World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
More information on the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
More information on Victims’ Rights:

Photo from Razi Pouri on Unsplash



Philippe Seidel Leroy

Policy Manager on Social Protection and European Parliament

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