“He told me: 'Old woman, useless, when are you going to die?'” Sofia became afraid that her own son would kill her, but it took her a long time to be encouraged to speak. It was almost three years of silence, enduring and hiding.
“Four years ago, my son separated from his wife and came to live with me, he had lost his job and he was very depressed, and I welcomed him with open arms,” says Sofía, 72, widowed and also with a daughter. . “He always had a bad temper,” he continues, “he had fits of anger for any reason.” After a time of coexistence, his mood worsened, he even resented me talking to him, and one day he went on to insult. to drink alcohol and stopped looking for a job, I would go out and when I came back, he would come drunk and yell at me. “
All that Sofia lived. But the abuse was not only in words. At the time, he began to leave her locked up when he went out to drink. “My daughter did not know anything, I did not want to worry her, I also did not want to leave because my son did not have a job, what would he live?” He explains. At that time, I did not know that this was just the beginning of a nightmare.
Unfortunately, his story is not an isolated event, quite the opposite. In our country, there are many older adults, especially women, who suffer from different forms of violence, from physical and more visible, to structural and more silent.
In the city of Buenos Aires, the Proteger Program received, in 2018, 1069 complaints. “In 70% of the cases, the aggressors are direct relatives, in relation to the victims, 81% are women and 19% are men,” says Alejandra Vázquez, a psychologist and coordinator of this program belonging to the Secretariat of Social Integration for Senior Citizens of the Buenos Aires Government.
Eugenio Semino, defender of the Town of the Third Age, indicates that they attend between 300 and 400 cases per day of elderly people who suffer structural violence from organisms, families or social groups.
Of the 48,820 calls that line 144 received nationally for situations of violence last year, 5.9% corresponded to women over 60, almost 3000, according to the latest report of the Observatory on Violence against Women of the National Institute of Women (INAM). In 2016, it had been 1838.
Sofia had decided to endure, felt that she had to do everything possible to keep her family together. “One day, my son came with my grandchildren and he treated me badly in front of them, and he ordered them not to talk to me, I suffered a lot, but I suppose they did because they were afraid of the father. My son was also violent with his wife and that was the reason for their separation. “
One of the characteristics of the older adult population is feminization, because of the marked levels of male over-mortality. In the 2010 Census, 10.2% of the Argentine population was over 65 years old, that is, 4,100,000 people, of whom 58% were women. The older the female prevalence increases. So, they are the most vulnerable not only because they are more, but because they are a generation that grew up and grew older in “a patriarchal social, economic and political context” and “tend to maintain gender roles and stereotypes that prevailed at the throughout their lives, “according to the report” Older adults in situations of violence “of the INAM.
The apartment where they lived was from Sofia, but her son demanded that she leave and threatened to intern her in a nursing home. “I bought the food, I had to cook it, wash my clothes and if something did not like it, the screams, insults and abuse began again,” says this woman, in deep pain.
Specialists note that abuse becomes a very terrible reality, scarcely visible, little detected or reported by the elderly themselves or close to them, because many times they prefer to suffer rather than accusing someone of their environment.
The days passed, the situation was getting worse. A neighbor wanted to help her but Sofia denied everything. “He forced me to give him the money for my retirement and the pension, I even had to stop taking my medication because I did not have the money to buy it, he spent everything on alcohol,” he says. One day, they cut off the light for lack of payment. “He got so mad at me that he pushed me,” he recalls, “it was the first time he hit me.” From that day on, he started telling me he was going to kill me and that's when I started to fear him. “
On this type of situation, Vázquez explains that, “many times, the perpetrators of violence are the children and grandchildren of the victim, because violence is a behavior learned from family, social and cultural models.” It is “a naturalization of violence during all their lives”.
When Sofia asked her son why he was so cruel to her, he held her responsible. “She told me that I gave her a bad childhood because her father was very violent with me and with him, maybe she is right, but at that moment I was convinced that I had to respect what my husband decided, we women could not make decisions”. the Mint.
The situation escalated into violence until one day Sofia's injuries were visible. “It was when I joined forces and called a companion from the retirement center to come with me to ask for help, it hurt a lot but I made the complaint and went to live in my daughter's house for a while, then they excluded my son. Everyone helped me to realize that I have the right to live peacefully and without violence, my daughter and my grandchildren are my support, but I have a great pain inside of me and I do not lose hope that my son will change “, reflects.
“When we refer to violence towards the elderly, we talk about a set of abuse of power behavior that can sometimes be presented by action, such as shouting, insulting, hitting and abusing economically, or by omission, through the abandonment “, explains Vázquez (see separately).
According to the psychologist, these situations are presented within the framework of a relationship of inequality, where the objective is to subdue, control and dominate the older person, that is, to do what he would not do of his own free will.
The Romans spoke of two terms to define violence: absolute vis or physical violence; and compulsive vis or intimidation, which refers to psychic and moral violence. “The famous psychoanalyst Fernando Ulloa called the latter sweet violence, it is the one that is not seen, it is the lack of recognition of the right, the lack of containment and understanding from society or from family structures”, explains Semino. The defender of the Third Age details that “it is the most widespread violence on the elderly” and that it manifests itself from the insufficient income and the non-recognition of their roles, until having to do tasks against their will in order to survive.
For his part, Sergio Costantino, Secretary of Social Integration for the Elderly of the GCBA, argues that we must achieve change the view that society has of older people, and that the adults themselves have of themselves. “The change seeks to promote productivity and integration, taking advantage of the valuable knowledge and experience acquired by older people over the years,” he says.
“When we see that a retiree or pensioner does not cover a third of their basic needs, we have a big problem, and the worst thing is that society is naturalizing these issues, causing gerascofobia, that is, an unexplained fear of aging because the image of the future is that of decadence, that exclusion to which we are supposedly going to be subjected, according to current social parameters, “warns Semino.
There are different indicators that can alert you to abuse, help to prevent it or end it.
- One of the most obvious signs may be bruising or bruising. “Sometimes when the victim is treated in a medical guard say that the blows were caused by a fall and it is not true, so it is very important that professionals in the health area receive training so they can detect these situations in time,” says Alejandra Vázquez, coordinator of the Proteger Program.
- Another aspect is sudden changes in mood or behavior when the perpetrator is present; who has very low self-esteem or who shows fear towards a family member or caregiver.
- There are several indications that can help diagnose a situation of violence. “Another warning can be when the person is in a situation of abandonment, when the way in which they live does not match their income, or when the caregiver or relative is hostile to the presence of professionals or doctors who do want to attend the elderly person “, adds the specialist.
- For example, if it is abandonment or neglect, it can be observed if there is poor nutrition, lack of access to medication, dehydration or poor personal or household hygiene.
The forms of violence
- Psychological submission: the most daily and denounced. They are a set of behaviors of abuse of power that seek to subdue, control and dominate the older person, include shouting and insults.
- Physical abuse: Hair pulling or shaking are usually very common; Many times it can lead to physical injuries, from bruises or scratches to fractures, caused by falls.
- Abandonment: when the relatives do not deal with the elderly and there is great negligence; In some cases it happens because the person lives alone and does not have relatives or resources.
- Forced insulation: Many times they are prevented from bonding with other family members or people around them, so they can not ask for help.
- Economic abuse: Scams and economic abuse is usually one of the serious problems; They appropriate their retirement, spend their money or own their property.
- Absurd demands: It is common that they are subjected to orders that exceed their possibilities, such as forcing them to do domestic tasks or activities more quickly than they can due to their physical limitations.
- Structural violence: it is the absence of State resources and social networks so that older people can satisfy their basic rights and needs for housing, health and food.
A space to protect victims
In the Proteger Program they receive complaints from family members, neighbors or the victims themselves -they must be residents of the city of Buenos Aires- and, once the elderly enter, the professional team elaborates a comprehensive plan of care and protection.
“We offer them support, legal advice and participation in preventive activities is encouraged in order to strengthen their self-esteem and potential,” explains Laura Macazaga, operational manager of Protection of the Rights of Older Adults under the Ministry of Social Integration for People Major of the Government of the city of Buenos Aires.
The complaints not only come from their telephone line: “We work a lot with public bodies, there are cases that come from other prosecutors of civil courts, which request the intervention of professional teams,” says Macazaga.
The program has five teams that work in different districts of the City with the idea of bringing the resource to the elderly and avoid having to mobilize so much.
“What we do is to think about a protection action plan for the elderly person, in some cases, it can include the entrance to a protected accommodation device for the victims who present a high risk, and who do not have anywhere to go,” says Vázquez .
The refuge is a protected accommodation that was created with the aim of offering a temporary residence space with a reserved address, to protect the physical and mental integrity of elderly people who are in situations of domestic violence. There, the containment of the team and the pairs becomes a great tool to get ahead.
Where to report