Attack, rape of 81-year-old woman prompts community to demand se - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Attack, rape of 81-year-old woman prompts community to demand senior safety

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Through new programs, self-defense moves, and a reporting system, we can all help keep Mid-South seniors safe. 

Community centers around the city of Memphis serve as a safe-haven for seniors like Kattye Davis. 

Davis said she always relies on her daughter to run errands or go out.

"I feel pretty safe, I sure do, but I don't go anywhere by myself," Davis said. "I know she's looking out for me so I listen to her sometimes." 

Memphis Police Major Doreen Shelton works with Coordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse or CREA - a senior advocacy group comprised of law enforcement, legal experts, and community partners. 

The organization, operating since January 2015, is funded by a $3.4 million grant though the Plough Foundation.

"The biggest issue that most seniors have is that they want to maintain their independence," Shelton said. "We don't want our seniors locked up. They should have a right to go to the park and walk around, drive and go shopping."

However, Shelton said it's often that desire to remain self-sufficient that makes seniors a target of crime.

Johnny Hurley Junior's 78-year-old father was attacked and beaten to death in Glenview Park off Southern Avenue in 2013. 

"I used to warn him because he felt like he had been over here, like he could walk through here," Hurley Junior said. "I'd be like, 'Daddy, it's not safe to walk through this park in the daytime let alone when it's dark.'"

July 1, an 81-year-old woman was attacked and raped mid-morning in the parking lot of Greater Imani Church in Raleigh where she routinely used a walker to exercise. 

The victim's neighbor, Billy Bass, said he, other neighbors, and even the victim's daughter often warned her not to go off alone.

"She wouldn't have listened to us if we tried to help her," Bass said. "She's a sort of an independent type person. Hell, she'd get in that car and take off." 

Many people have a routine because it helps keep a daily balance, but Shelton said routines can sometimes work against your safety. 

Shelton said if you know a senior with a daily routine, make these suggestions: "Remind her to call a friend, to tell a neighbor 'Hey I'm going to
the store.' Remind her not to go to the mailbox at the same time every day."

Safety expert Marti Miller teaches self-defense for active seniors. Her most important tips include:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. Criminals are drawn to seniors who seem puzzled or confused.
  2. Stay in groups, especially when walking through a neighborhood or park.
  3. If you're attacked, give the attacker what he wants and try your best to get away.

The community can also always do more to support and protect seniors.

Patti Tosti lives by the CREA motto of "See it. Report it. Prevent it."

"We are all mandated reporters in the state of Tennessee, so we must call adult services," Tosti said.

She said just as it's our responsibility to report children in danger, we must do the same for seniors. Tosti said keep in mind that for every senior
attacked by a stranger on the street, dozens more are victimized by their own loved ones--crimes that often go unreported.

"And why? Because there is fear, and because there is shame. Because it's family members that they don't want to get in trouble," she explained. 

Bass refuses to live in fear. He said he does not go looking for trouble, but if trouble finds him, he's ready.

"If I'm sitting out here, I have my gun in my pocket, and I ain't scared to use it," Bass said.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 59 percent of senior violent crime victims reported being victimized at or near their home. 

Learn more about senior resources by visiting:

CREA, Memphis

Family Safety Center

National Crime Prevention Council

If you suspect elder abuse, call Tennessee Adult Protective Services at 1-888-APS-TENN.

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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