June is Adult Abuse Awareness Month; concerns about lack of visibility as many stay home

Adult abuse cases continue to rise in Washington state as social distancing rules begin to relax, according to officials, and June is being recognized as Adult Abuse Awareness Month.

The Department of Social and Health Services published an article that this annual statewide awareness campaign is designed to promote education, identification and reporting of the mistreatment of vulnerable adults throughout the state.

“Adult Abuse Awareness Month carries additional weight this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged stay-at-home order,” said Adult Protective Services Director Kathy Morgan. “For the past year, adult abuse was not as visible as it once was. We rely on doctors, bank tellers, religious leaders, communities and family members to report signs of abuse and neglect. As social distancing measures begin to relax, we are seeing an increasing number of reports as vulnerable adults become less isolated.”

Adult Protective Services, a division within the Department of Social and Health Services, received more than 65,000 reports of vulnerable adult abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect in 2020.

“We have an increasing number of vulnerable adults in Washington state,” said Morgan “Our job is to promote individual choice while offering protective services. We believe everyone deserves the right to live free from harm.”

There are many forms of adult abuse: neglect and self-neglect as well as financial, physical, sexual and mental abuse. Signs of abuse can include lack of adequate food, suspicious financial withdraws, sudden change in behavior and changes in social engagement. Additional information regarding signs of abuse is available on the APS website.

“We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears when it comes to protecting vulnerable adults,” said Morgan. “Understanding and identifying the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation is the first step. Many cases go unreported simply because no one realized what was going on. If you’re unsure, please make a report to APS.”

Suspected cases of abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect should be reported to APS by filing a report online at www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/reportadultabuse or by calling 1–877–734–6277.

You can participate in Adult Abuse Awareness Month by checking-in on loved ones, offering respite breaks for caregivers, learning the signs of adult abuse and educating others.

To learn more about vulnerable adult abuse, visit the APS website.