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Hidden In Plain Sight - Abuse In Tyler County

Tyler County Booster

by Jacki Kerr/Booster Intern

Many of us live in Tyler County by choice. Some of us have always lived here, some of us grew up here and came back later, and many people came here because of the natural beauty and the “laid back” lifestyle. We are blessed with a county filled with friendly people a great sense of community. For too many people in Tyler County, though, life is more pain than pleasure, a constant struggle to survive physical and emotional abuse at the hands of family and aquaintances who should be protecting them, not harming them. The Booster decided to approach this difficulty because, as you will see from the statistics in this series of articles by Booster Summer Intern Jacki Kerr, Tyler County seems to have more than its share of abusers of various kinds. This series will look at six areas of abuse that are all too common here: Elderly Abuse, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Sexual Assault and abuse in Teen Age relationships. The first in our series looks at Elderly Abuse in Tyler County. It’s difficult for most people to imagine that anyone would want to harm our older citizens who have given a lifetime of work, raised families, and been a positive part of our community. Sadly, though, it seems to happen a lot in a county as small as ours. From September of 2009 to June of 2010 there have been 118 new reports of abuse, neglect and or exploitation of elderly or disabled individuals who live in Tyler County, excluding nursing homes, and 67 of those reports were confirmed according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. From September of 2008 to August of 2009 there were 292 cases reported in Tyler County alone. In the 2000 Census the number of 65 and older individuals was 3,722 for Tyler County, in return this means that 12 percent of the 65-and-older population was reported for abuse neglect, and/or exploitation in 2009. “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32 NIV translation. Ever since I can remember, I have been told to respect my elders, do what they tell me, love them, listen to them, and do for them. Let’s face it, without our elders we would not be on this earth, we would never have been born, and we would not have the lives we do have. So why are our elderly abused, neglected, and exploited for their money so often? The Texas Human Code Chapter 48 defines an elderly person as 65 years or older and a disabled person as someone with a mental, physical or developmental disability over the age of 18. The Texas Human Code §48.002 defines abuse as the negligent or willful infliction of injury unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm. Exploitation is the illegal or improper use of money of an elderly or disabled person by a caretaker, family member, or other individual. Neglect is the failure to provide for one’s self or services. “Exploitation is the hardest out of the three types of abuse to prove, and is a growing problem due to the economy slump,” said Rhonda Brooks, Adult Protective Services Supervisor. It is the law to report elderly, disabled adults and child abuse in the state of Texas. If you suspect abuse, neglect, and/ or exploitation you must contact someone immediately. One example follows. In May 2010, Adult Protective Services in Tyler County received two reports about an 88 year old woman’s, alleged physical abuse and physical neglect by a family member. She has dementia, hypertension, and heart disease. The case is still under investigation by the DFPS or the Department of Family and Protective Services. This lady trusted her abuser, after all it was a family member, but the two people who made the report did the right thing and reported the violence against the woman. The APS are here to help the individual by any means possible. They can help pay for items such as life supporting medicines. They are here to help the elderly and disabled people, and will work on the case from start to finish. However, the APS cannot do anything to help the victim unless their problem is reported. Reporting makes the difference in all cases. If the law enforcement or public services do not know about the abuse then they cannot help in any way. If you know someone who is elderly or disabled and is being abused, neglected and or explicated, you can contact local law enforcement (911), Tyler County Sheriff’s Office (409) 283-2172, if the situation is life threatening. Or you can also call the Health Services Department of Human Services (409) 283-3765. If the person who is being abused lives in a nursing home then the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) is who you call 1-800-458-9858. Protect your neighbors and friends. Keep an eye out for possible abused, neglect, and or exploitation.

Polk County Publishing Company