Victimization of the elderly produces both primary and secondary victimization. Though Ms. Coldren's grandmother was the direct victim of the crime, the impact on the family - as in this case - produced secondary victimization. Initially, family members are generally in shock, emotionally upset, confused, and, over time, can become very angry. In institutional settings, family members believe their loved ones will be safe with supervision, and they do not imagine their loved ones will become victims of crime by perpetrators who prey upon their vulnerabilities. "What we felt living this nightmare... disbelief, fear, numbness, pain, anger, bitterness, shock, outrage, and our hearts broken. We also shed a thousand tears for her," says Ms. Coldren.
As a result of her grandmother's victimization, Ms. Coldren is committed to implementing changes in the system. "I don't want any other family or elderly person to have to go through what we went through," says Ms. Coldren.
In July 2007, Ms. Coldren travelled to Washington, D.C. and testified before the U. S. Senate Committee on Aging and addressed Chairman Herb Kohl and other distinguished members of the committee. She relayed the story of her elderly grandmother's victimization and the impact it had on the victim as well as herself and her family.
"I ask the committee, for a moment, to put yourselves in our shoes. How would you feel if this happened to your mother, grandmother, or someone else you love? We need to protect our aging loved ones who can't protect themselves because if we don't, who will? Our hope is something good will come out of this nightmare for us and that, together, we can come up with a solution for a growing problem so that this never happens to another elderly person and their families again. We cannot change the past or what happened to my grandmother, but we can change things for future generations so no one will ever know the fear and pain my grandmother and family has endured through all this," testified Ms. Coldren.
There is a vital need for advocacy for the elderly. "We protect our children but not our elderly. There are no safeguards as far as I am concerned," says Ms. Coldren. Her proactive efforts demonstrate the urgency to enact additional and enhanced legislation to protect vulnerable and elderly people from becoming victims of crime.
Law enforcement must remain vigilant and keenly attuned to the safety risks facing senior citizens. Ongoing dialogue combined with legislative changes and realistic approaches must unite to ensure the continued safety of the elderly population.