Breaking Free: Officials seeing increase in domestic violence among senior couples

‘There has been a rise,’ says Harris County Prosecutor

HOUSTON – Intimate partner violence involving couples in their golden years is something that even law enforcement doesn’t expect when they arrive to domestic violence emergencies.

“When you first see it, you’re shocked,” said Joe Vinas, a criminal defense attorney and former Harris County prosecutor.

Vinas prosecuted these types of cases 20 years ago when the unit was known as the family law criminal law division, now it goes by the name of the domestic violence division.

“The general thought is as people get older they can’t hurt anybody anymore and that is not always the case,” said Vinas.

Multiple experts KPRC 2 Investigates spoke with believe that violent acts among a senior couple happen more often than is reported.

Moreover, like many cases, it can be difficult to have justice served.

“There can be pressure from the family at times not to prosecute,” said Stephany Abner with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Abner, who has been prosecuting these types of cases since 2021, also says victims at times don’t want to cooperate.

”It’s not uncommon for the complainant to not want to prosecute their husband or their wife that they have been married to for decades,” said Abner during a sit-down interview with KPRC 2 Investigates.

There is a trend she and others have been noticing.

“There has been a rise in interpersonal violence for the elderly population,” said Abner.

Abner points to the growing population of seniors in recent years as one of the contributing factors to the rise.

As to why it happens? Experts tell us the reasons can vary, from couples spending much more time together to financial and health issues.

“We’ve had individuals in jail some time that had signs of dementia taking place and obviously they are incarcerated as well because they assaulted a loved one or their intimate partner,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

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