Adult abuse remains a concern during COVID-19 crisis

Release Date: 
Jun 03 2020
DSHS Office of Communications
Chris Wright
(360) 628-1043


OLYMPIA – June is Adult Abuse Awareness Month in Washington state. The annual statewide awareness campaign is designed to promote education, identification and reporting of the mistreatment of vulnerable adults throughout the state.

“The campaign carries additional weight this year in light of the COVID-19 crisis and prolonged stay at home order,” said Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange. “Mistreatment is not as visible as it once was. We rely on doctors, bank tellers, religious leaders, communities and family members to report signs of abuse and neglect. With social distancing in place, it’s increasingly difficult for our partners to see and identify possible abuse.”

In 2019, Adult Protective Services, a division within DSHS, received more than 70,000 reports of vulnerable adult abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect. The number of reports reflects a steady increase from 60,000 reports in 2018 and 48,000 reports in 2017.

“We have an increasing number of adults who are susceptible to abuse or neglect in Washington state,” said Adult Protective Services Director Kathy Morgan. “Our job is to promote individual choice while offering protective services. We believe everyone deserves the right to live free from harm.”

Adult abuse takes many forms, including neglect and self-neglect as well as financial, physical, sexual and mental abuse. Signs of abuse can include lack of adequate food, suspicious financial withdrawals, sudden changes in behavior and changes in social engagement. Additional information regarding signs of abuse is available on the APS website

Maintaining social interactions while keeping physical distance is critical to protecting vulnerable adults during these unprecedented times. Phone calls, letters, video calls and quick backyard chats are a great way to stay connected and learn of any concerning changes.

“We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears when it comes to protecting vulnerable adults,” said Morgan. “Understanding and identifying the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation is the first step. Many cases go unreported simply because no one realized what was going on. If you’re unsure, please make a report to APS.”

Suspected cases of abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect should be reported to APS by filing a report online at or by calling 1-877-734-6277.

Members of the public can participate in Adult Abuse Awareness Month by checking -in on loved ones, offering respite breaks for caregivers, learning the signs of adult abuse and educating others. To learn more about adult abuse, visit the APS website.