ATrain Education


Continuing Education for Health Professionals

IA: Abuse of Dependent Adults

Module 4

Attitudes Toward Reporting Abuse

Why Victims of Abuse Do Not Report

There are many reasons why victims do not report the abuse, including lack of confidence, a history of abuse, fear of retaliation by the abuser, cultural beliefs, embarrassment, and shame. For example, people who have never been self-confident are not likely to ask for help when they become dependent. Those who have been abused or neglected their entire lives expect maltreatment will continue, would never think someone would want to help, and often reject help when it is offered.

Abused dependent adults may have sought help from law enforcement or other agencies in the past, only to experience worse abuse, neglect, or exploitation when representatives of those agencies were not present.

Some cultures believe that whatever happens within a family is no one else’s business. The dependent adult may be ashamed or embarrassed to be neglected, abused, or financially exploited by a trusted family member. The victim may promise to keep the abuse secret so the abuser will not further abuse them or other loved ones, including pets. Abusers may threaten to withhold care or food or other necessities, or to send the dependent adult to a nursing home if the victim tells anyone about the abuse.

Why Mandatory Reporters Do Not Want to Report

Those who are required by law to report suspected abuse of elders or dependent adults share some of the same fears as the abused individuals: that reporting will hurt the relationship with the victim or the abuser or will cause retaliation by the perpetrator. Other stated reasons for reluctance to report include:

  • Damage relationship with victim and/or suspected abuser
  • Fear of losing a job
  • Court time—with loss of work time
  • Nothing will change, and everyone involved will get upset
  • Cannot get DHS or DIA to accept a report
  • Do not want to get involved (“none of my business”)
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