Blog: Empowering Women to Embrace Healthy Relationships

By Nancy Aiken, Director, CHANA

Even as women have increased their presence in the workplace with meaningful occupations in the past few generations, we have not abandoned our concerns with relationships and caring for our families. It has not been an “either/or” for most women but rather a “how many balls can I juggle at one time?”  We just keep adding to the intricate collection flying in front of our eyes.

The past few generations of women have built the foundation for those who follow us to be empowered to expect equality and to speak up when what they receive falls short. We have taught this message to our daughters, with an unprecedented number of dating violence programs and websites changing the manner in which we view what once was thought of as a harmless rite of passage for our youth.

Many of us reach the point in our individual lives of what may seem like a plateau when the stress of finding a healthy relationship and then putting our children on the path to finding their own seems to abate and we can take a breath. Of all the things to worry about, abuse, seems to finally be low on the list.

But as the old saying teaches us, “a woman’s work is never done.”

Our community of engaged women, intent on everyone we care about being safe and happy is now confronted with the increasing concern of Elder Abuse.

Our defense mechanisms want us to believe that all we have to worry about is the nursing home worker or the home health care assistant, and yet for an elderly person to be treated with respect we must again look at trusted individuals. It is an alarming situation in our country when we know that if a person over 60 is murdered, that 24 percent of the time the perpetrator is a child and 42 percent of the time it is a spouse.

As the children of this growing senior population, it is imperative that we recognize the warning signs that our parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents are being mistreated. It is important to remember that this is not just about physical harm, but also neglect and abandonment. Is a neighbor taking advantage of an older person’s generosity? Is a family member pushing to have legal documents rewritten and signed? What are those bruises? Why does grandma look so scared?

CHANA, in partnership with Jewish Community Services and Levindale Geriatric Center, offers a new program, SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders. SAFE offers prevention and educational workshops for survivors, seniors and their caretakers, advisors and family members. In addition, SAFE offers crisis intervention, emergency shelter and counseling.

This new role of CHANA will prove to be challenging at times. Many of us may even be reluctant to speak up out of respect to our parents and older family members. But, we must step forward together and take a stand for our loved ones. Our work may never be done but the safer, healthier world we leave behind for our children and grandchild will be our legacy.

The individual and collective efforts of women, long before Ray Rice was a household name, have made tangible improvement to domestic violence laws and availability of resources.