One of Chicago’s dubious distinctions–especially in recent years–is the high prevalence of murders in the city. We frequently top the list for homicides each year, and, sadly, many of those crimes go unsolved. This statistic has made headlines in recent months in the context of gun violence. Many victims are killed with handguns, often as a result of gang activity.
But it is a mistake to assume all of these crimes are related to young men involved in gang activity. In fact, a Chicago Tribune story earlier this month reminds us that some victims are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum–seniors or adults with disabilities who are killed, often as a result of abuse.
The article shares the case of one woman whose body was found in 2011. It had been thrown out near railroad tracks on the city’s west side. She did not have any identification on her, and police have yet to figure out who she is or how she ended up discarded in a vacant lot on West 23rd street. The woman age is unknown but authorities referred to her as “older,” likely in her late 50s or 60s. She was of Asian descent (perhaps from Vietnam or Cambodia) and quite small: four feet nine inches and weighing less than one hundred pounds.
Essentially, all that is know about the victim was that she was beaten to death. Not only that but authorities believe that she may have faced some kind of torture before her. passing from blunt force trauma. Authorities noticed that her teeth were almost black, an indication that she frequently chewed “betel nut,” a common practice in many Asian cultures, particular in certain economic classes.
In describing the situation, one police commander explained, “This is not somebody who’s a drug dealer, who was a gangbanger, who in some way is involved with something that can lead to their death. This is an innocent victim.”
But authorities are not entirely without their suspicions. They indicate that the woman was likely in a dependent situation because of physical and/or mental challenges. This is the same situation that many other seniors throughout the city find themselves. In this case, her dependency leads police to suspect that she may have been killed by the ones who were supposed to take care of her, perhaps a relative. It is likely that she may have faced serious physical abuse and neglect for a prolonged period of time.
An elder abuse academic interviewed for the story explained how, tragically, this sort of caretaker abuse is far too common. Most of the time it occurs behind closed doors without anyone ever learning about it. Some in the immigrant population may be particularly at risk.
The professional explained how many seniors are brought from other countries in order to act as cooks, nurses, or nannies. In some cases the senior qualifies for supplemental income which is often taken by other family members. These seniors are prone to being mistreated or outright abused. Because of language and cultural differences they often have nowhere to turn. They suffer in silence and, occasionally face awful ends.
Our Chicago nursing home lawyers urge everyone to keep an eye out for any vulnerable senior that they know and to act if neglect or abuse is suspected.
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