Families Often Feel Helpless In Dealing With Cases Involving Older Victims Of Abuse
Posted January 10, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST
LEE COUNTY — A murder case in Lee County represents concerns many people have for older victims of abuse.
Virginia Tucker of Sanford appeared in court Wednesday. She is being charged in the death of her live-in aunt, 83-year-old Melvie Stutts. If the murder case against Tucker goes to trial, Jimmy Stutts, Tucker's cousin, hopes to be called as a witness.
"She was so intimidated by Virginia. Virginia verbally abused her. She has pushed her. She has hit her," he says.
A medical examiner in Chapel Hill has not determined what killed Melvie Stutts, but paramedics found her New Year's Day in a coma on the bathroom floor of the home she shared with her niece, Virginia. Stutts says she had been left there for a week.
"Her hip was broke. Her shoulder was broke. She had bed sores all over her," he says.
Stutts says Tucker neglected and abused their aunt for years. He says he and other family members tried to rescue his aunt from the situation.
Stutts says, for years, while his aunt and Tucker lived in Robbins, Moore County Social Services failed to act on numerous complaints, but advocates for elderly victims of abuse say successful intervention often depends on the willingness of the victim.
"It's important to note that because these are adults, the law does say that they have the right to refuse adult protective services," says Wendy Sause, state long-term care ombudsman.
Courts must decide if the alleged victim is competent to make decisions for themselves. Sause says fear of the unknown may keep them in a bad situation.
"They may not know what will happen to them if they move out of the house," she says.
Sause says the victim must be convinced that escape from abuse, even if the future is uncertain, will be better than the known dangers of the present.
Sause says if the people who file complaints of abuse are not satisfied with a county's social services response, they may bring the issue to the county commissioners who oversee that department. You can also go to the state division of social services.