The Problem

Skip to Content


Use the following links to quickly jump to the desire location in the page.

You are on this page: The Problem

Victims of adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation include, among others:

The Victims

Adult and elder abuse exists across all demographic and geographic boundaries. Victims of adult abuse include the frail elderly, the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, the physically disabled, and substance abusers. Anyone can become a victim of abuse, regardless of age, gender, financial status, or background.

Adult abuse is often a "hidden" problem, partly because the victims fail to report abuse and mistreatment:

The Number of APS Referrals

The number of referrals made to APS has increased significantly in recent years. In 2014, there were 44,367 APS referrals statewide, which is an increase of more that 77 percent since 1997.

Year APS Referrals Statewide
2015 44,986
2014 44,367
2013 41,775
2012 39,613
2011 38,131
2010 36,681

Tip of the Iceberg

However, even with the increasing number of cases reported to APS, studies show that the number of cases reported are merely the "tip of the iceberg."

An OCFS-funded study, Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (2011), compared the number of elder abuse cases reported to APS, law enforcement and other authorities (the documented case study) with the number of cases reported by seniors in extensive interviews conducted by the researchers (the self-reported study). There was a dramatic gap between the two studies. In looking at all forms of abuse, researchers found that for every one case reported to APS or other authorities, there were 23.5 other cases that were not reported. The results were even more striking for financial exploitation (1:43.9) and neglect by others (1:57.2). The study estimated that 260,000 older adults in New York State had been the victim of at least one form of elder abuse in the preceding year.

Review of Recent APS Data

A review of recent APS data shows:

Of the perpetrator-related risks, the greatest number of reported risks are: financial exploitation (approximately 36.8 percent of perpetrator-related risks) and neglect by others (approximately 31.1 percent of perpetrator-related risks).

The Abusers

Sadly, the neglect and mistreatment of adults happens most by family members. New York State APS data documents that over half of the reported cases of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect by others, and financial exploitation involve family members as perpetrators.

Here are the reported aggregate characteristics of suspected perpetrators under the following categories:

Physical Abuse

2012 2011
Males 69.23% 58.33%
Females 30.77% 36.67%
Unspecified 0% .05%
Family Members 53.85% 55.00%
Spouse/Sig. Other 32.69% 30.00%
Non-Family 13.46% 15.00%

Psychological Abuse

2012 2011
Males 62.67% 51.90%
Females 33.33% 46.84%
Unspecified 4.00% 1.27%
Family Members 60.00% 63.29%
Spouse/Sig. Other 21.33% 22.78%
Non-Family 18.67% 13.92%

Neglect By Others

2012 2011
Males 44.90% 45.19%
Females 47.45% 47.70%
Unspecified 7.65% 7.11%
Family Members 65.82% 70.29%
Spouse/Sig. Other 20.41% 12.97%
Non-Family 13.78% 16.74%

Financial Exploitation

2012 2011
Males 47.73% 40.32%
Females 43.20% 50.23%
Unspecified 9.06% 9.45%
Family Members 58.31% 59.91%
Spouse/Sig. Other 5.74% 4.61%
Non-Family 35.95% 35.48%

Footnote: The Trend Continues: Family Members Comprise Largest Percentage of Perpetrators, Alan J. Lawitz, Director, NYS OCFS, Bureau of Adult Services, What's New In Adult Services, 2013). According to the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study of 1998, 47 percent of abusers were adult children of the victims. This is followed by 19 percent spouse, 9 percent each for grandchildren or other relative, 6 percent each friend/neighbor/sibling, 3 percent in-home service provider, and 1 percent out of home service provider.