The Elder Abuse Justice Unit
The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is committed to fighting elder abuse and improving the quality of life for
all seniors. To this end, the Elder Abuse Justice Unit (EAJU) was created.
The unit is comprised of senior deputy prosecuting attorneys who vertically prosecute elder abuse cases meaning one attorney handles the case from start to finish, and all attorneys are on call around the clock. This results not only in a complex understanding of the crime, but also good rapport and communication with the victims.
The EAJU also works closely with victim advocates so victims are given the support they need. Ultimately, the EAJU is able to arrest criminals sooner, keep them in jail longer, and resolve cases in the system faster.
The EAJU is dedicated to:
- Insuring that crimes against persons over the age of 60 are properly and effectively reported, investigated and prosecuted,
- Enhancing communication and cooperation between law enforcement, agencies providing services to persons over the age of 60, and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, and
- Increasing awareness of crimes against persons age 60 and over.
Some of the services provided by the victim counselors include:
- Crisis counseling
- Orientation of the criminal justice system
- Assistance with filing additional criminal case
- Case status information
- Court accompaniment
- Social services referrals
- Application for crime victim compensation
Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro conferring with members of the Elder Abuse Justice Unit; from left, Dawnie Ichimura, Kimberly Korte, and Scott Spallina.
The Problem of Elder Abuse
Elder Abuse is defined as an action by a person, usually in a position of trust, which causes harm to an elderly person.
This may include harmful actions committed by strangers, if a victim is targeted because of the victim's age.
Every year, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone whom they depend on for care or protection. It can happen anywhere, and to anyone. But most of all, it can happen, and is happening here in Hawaii.
Senior citizens are targeted for a number of reasons ranging from frustration or inadequate caregiver support, to simple greed or opportunity. Furthermore, elder abuse can be committed by anyone: a spouse, caregiver, adult children, a "new best friend," or a stranger. Likewise, there is no profile for victims. They may be physically or mentally impaired, too trusting, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Unfortunately elder abuse is a grossly underreported crime. It is estimated that for every case that is reported, another 25 cases remain unreported. Just as there are many reasons that elder abuse is committed, there are many reasons why it is not reported. Some of these reasons include:
- The elder may fear retaliation by their abusers, especially if they are dependent on the abuser for medical or financial care, or companionship
- They may fear deportation if they are not a citizen
- They may be unable to report the abuse due to a language barrier, a mental or physical disability, or religious belief or customs
- The elder may have a previous bad relationship with law enforcement or think the justice system is too confusing, or doesn't care about them
- The elder may be ashamed or embarrassed of their vulnerability, and the fact that they were abused
- Cultural norms have allowed this kind of behavior to seem "normal" or "acceptable"
- The elder may think they are betraying their family by reporting the abuse if their abusers are family members
If you know of someone being physically abused (or merely suspect that this crime is occurring) call the police or Adult
Protective Service immediately! Everyone has the right to live free of abuse, and it is up to us to come together to fight
Members of the Elder Abuse Justice Unit are available to make presentations about this important subject. Only through community awareness and a better understanding of this crime will the seniors of Hawaii receive the protection and dignity they deserve.