I recently came across a bizarre abstract of a paper on recent moves to set up a sort of VAWA for old people. The template of the new policy is explicitly feminist domestic violence law, so there’s no doubt that it will be a VAWA offshoot, and if I were staring senior citizenship right down the barrel I might be pretty worried given the implications.
Despite the tremendous growth of the criminal justice response to elder abuse, the legal academy has been almost entirely silent on this trend. This Article fills the void by providing the first substantive critique of the criminal justice response to elder abuse. Drawing on feminist critiques of criminal laws and policies related to domestic violence, the Article finds that the emerging criminal justice response to elder abuse holds the promise of protecting certain elder abuse victims and of positively affecting public attitudes towards elder abuse.
It looks like elderly abuse is set to become the next great social hysteria, which is how baby boomer women’s issues seem to turn out every time. First, it’s “free love,” then free abortion, free divorce, and so on until you get to free colonoscopies for all, and now “elderly abuse” looms over the horizon.
So what are some of the measures they are thinking about enacting?
Criminalization of sex with senior citizens, apparently:
Similarly, in the name of combating sexual abuse of older adults, some states have criminalized consensual sexual conduct that would otherwise be legally permissible. (72) For example, in the state of Washington, it is a crime for a disabled person age sixty or older to engage in consensual sexual activity with someone who provides that person with paid transportation. (73) In Vermont, it is a crime for anyone who works or volunteers at a caregiving facility or program to engage in sexual acts with any person whose ability to care for him or herself is impaired due to “infirmities of aging.” (74)
Likewise, the Wisconsin Individual-at-Risk Restraining Order makes it possible to obtain a restraining order over someone–and hold them criminally liable for violating that restraining order–even where the “victim” neither lacks capacity nor objects to contact with the third party. (75) The fact that an older adult is competent is not a basis for dismissal of the petition. (76) Moreover, an order can be granted even if the respondent does not pose a risk to the older adult, but merely poses a threat to an investigation of alleged mistreatment, interferes with an offer of services to the older adult (regardless of whether the older adult wishes to obtain such services and regardless of whether those services have been found to be in the older adult’s best interest), or threatens to mistreat or mistreats an animal owned by or in service to the older adult. (77)
I can’t help but wonder whether this is a backdoor way to keep grandpa from paying a little extra for “special services.” It is well-known that old men are far more sexually active than old women, so the obvious implication of these laws is that it’s going to make it a lot harder for older and disabled men to receive sexual favors in institutional settings.
It may not be particularly tasteful to think about, but there is in fact a thriving black market in both narcotics and sex in old folks’ homes. I can’t imagine that this will cease to exist as the largest generation in US history slowly begins to fill up these institutions.
Of course, sex isn’t the only issue here. If dealing with elderly parents becomes as dangerous as dealing with American women, I’m pretty sure a lot of children will opt out. If, for example, grandma gets drunk and resentful and calls the police crying about how mean her children have been, the resulting arrest probably won’t incline the child to go out of his or her way for her in the future. It could, however, give lawyers and social workers a perfect pretext for seizing an estate. This, I strongly suspect, is a motivating factor in the push to include elder abuse in the highly profitable domestic violence industry.