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CornerHouse Working to Help Eliminate Abuse Involving Vulnerable Adults

January 23, 2017 11:32 AM

The term "vulnerable adult" can include anyone from an 80-year-old grandmother with Alzheimer's to a 20-year-old brother with a developmental disability.

Reports of abuse against these individuals has doubled in the past decade.

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"Vulnerable adults can be somewhat invisible in our society," said Nancy Seger, who works on the forensic interview side of CornerHouse. said.

The organization is best known for its work in drawing tough information out of children after a report of abuse has been filed with police. Now they're hoping to reach a much larger percent of the population.

"We've done a handful of forensic interviews with vulnerable adults in the last several years and we really feel like that's a population that we could be serving more often," Seger said.

There were almost 10,000 reports of maltreatment of vulnerable adults in Hennepin County last year.

"Maltreatment is abuse, neglect, financial exploitation. And that does include sexual abuse," said Carmen Castaneda, Manager of Hennepin County Adult Protection Services.

What's worse, the county attorney's office believes only a fraction, 20 percent, of the total number of abuse cases are reported.

"Most incidents of elder and vulnerable adult abuse are not reported to the police," said Assistant County Attorney Amy Sweasy.

"Elderly people in particular aren't going to talk about this," said Castaneda. "It's very shameful to somebody to know they've been sexually abused."

That under-reporting is magnified in sexual abuse cases. There were 123 reports of sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult last year.
Castaneda doesn't believe that low number is a good thing.

"People fear reporting because they think they might be taken out of their home and that's not what adult protection does," she said. "We need to know about this. We don't want individuals suffering around us."

"People have a right to be safe and they have a right to be heard," Seger said.

Some warning signs to watch for include when your loved one or neighbor suddenly starts having nightmares and/or gets extremely upset when they need to undress for a bath or shower.

These agencies all say if you suspect something, just call. They'll take over from there.  You can report maltreatment 24-hours a day by calling (612)348-8526.

Possible indicators of sexual abuse:

  • Self destructive activity or suicidal ideation
  • Caregiver makes statements indicating view of the client as sexual property
  • Caregiver is physically abusive toward dependent person
  • Caregiver has history of sexual offending
  • Caregiver is reluctant to allow others access to the dependent

Types of Alleged Abuse in Hennepin County in 2014

Total Abuse Allegations in Hennepin County from 2005-2014

Hennepin County Abuse Allegations Based on Type

Credits

Katherine Johnson

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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