Raising the awareness of elder abuse, including sexual assault, is a continuing focus in central Alberta.
“We want to keep the conversations going and the connections. When people put up their hands this time, there were 13 people who were new to this conversation,” said organizer Sheryl Krill of participants at the fourth annual Central Alberta Elder Abuse Community Conversation, held Tuesday at Golden Circle Seniors Resource Centre.
Representatives from groups that work with the senior population gathered to discuss sexual assault, historical trauma and restorative justice.
But Patricia Arango, executive director of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, said seniors aren’t just dealing with sexual abuse that happened to them in the past. Abuse may also be recent.
Regardless of when it happened, seniors are often hesitant to speak up. They don’t want their children and family to know what happened to them, she said.
“For seniors, it’s very difficult to reach for help. They are so quiet and ashamed. It’s a huge secret,” Arango said.
But the support centre is open to everybody, she said.
“We work with individuals. We don’t work with a specific age. Don’t think about whether you qualify. You’re a victim. You qualify,” Arango said.
“We believe them. We know it has happened to them.”
About 10 per cent of the centre’s clients are seniors. Among adult victims, 90 per cent of them know their abuser.
Arango said a few years ago, more seniors started contacting the centre, likely because of growing community awareness and available support.
That’s when the centre decided to reach out to seniors agencies to educate their staff to help older people.
For more information about the services offered by the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, go to casasc.ca online.
People can also visit the centre, located at A201-5212 48th St., or call or text its 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-956-1099. Webchat is also available at casasc.ca.