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Forensic Markers of Physical Elder Abuse: Establishing a Medical Characterization and Identifying the Criminal Justice Approach to Investigation and Prosecution

Award Information

Award #
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Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $518,327)

This study will: (1) Document the spectrum of injuries seen in physical elder abuse cases; (2) Identify forensic markers of physical abuse that are integral for achieving justice through prosecution; and (3) Develop best practices for APS to preserve forensic evidence of physical abuse through appropriate documentation. 100-120 adults aged 65 or older who are reported to APS as victims of physical abuse will be matched to a similar number of non-abuse comparison subjects. Los Angeles APS clients are a racially diverse group that includes all socioeconomic strata. The design includes two phases. In Phase I, a study-funded research nurse will accompany APS social workers on physical abuse home visits to assess the victim and document any physical injuries. The nurse and the PI will conduct similar assessments with a matched comparison group. In Phase II, documentation collected by the research nurse and PI will be presented to three panels of professionals involved in the assessment, investigation, and prosecution of physical elder abuse: (1) a LEAD panel of medical professionals, (2) a panel of law enforcement detectives, and (3) a panel of prosecutors. Based on the evidence presented, panels will determine whether they believe (a) abuse has occurred and/or (b) the case is prosecutable.

Data gathered through assessment of both groups will be compiled into a dataset for analysis. Descriptive statistics (frequencies and characteristics of injuries) will be presented to provide insight into case characteristics and types of injuries observed. Bivariate significance tests will be run to test the difference in these statistics between the abuse group and the comparison group. Logistic regression will be conducted to identify how case characteristics and evidence gathered affect the likelihood of criminal prosecution.ca/ncf

Date Created: September 12, 2013