HALLOWELL — Virginia Parker worries that her children could be bullied when they enter school.
She also watched her 100-year-old grandmother suffer emotional and occasionally physical abuse from her grandfather until he died several years ago.
Those experiences and concerns encapsulated the discussion at Spectrum Generations Cohen Center, which hosted a panel discussion Saturday about the ways that people of any age can be perpetrators or victims of bullying, intimidation or abuse.
Maggie Tardiff, the center’s director, said despite having a different name, elder abuse – whether by the staff at a residential facility or a family member taking advantage of and older relative – is essentially a form of bullying.
“Generally, when you think of the word bullying, you think of children,” Tardiff said. “And when you think of elder abuse, you do not think of bullying, but it is one and the same thing.”
Panelist Francine McEwen wrote her book “Billy Big Ears and Bob the Bully” to show the perspective of both parties in a case of childhood bullying and the need for compassion and help for bullies. In the book, Bob the bully needs to find a better way to deal with the shame and anger he feels after being abused by his father.
“We’re making out bullies to be demons,” McEwen said. “They’re also victims. We have to help them. Because if we only help the victim, the bullies are not going to go away.”
McEwen wrote the book for children, but she said many adults, including elderly people, have bought it for themselves.
McEwen told a story about seeing a subtle form of elder abuse against an 85-year-old woman at one of her book signings. The woman’s daughter spoke harshly to her after they became separated, did not help her mother rise from a chair and then rushed out of the building, leaving her mother struggling to catch up.
Audience member Genie Dailey of Jefferson, who edited McEwen’s book, said the story made her more aware of the forms abuse can take and mindful of the need for bystanders to speak up when they see something wrong.
“It’s passive aggression, which many people probably wouldn’t recognize as abuse,” Dailey said. “A lot of people would just ignore that and think nothing of that, but it is a passive aggressive action.”
The other panelists were Nan Bell and Nancy Provost, educators for the Family Violence Project. Bell is also a member of the Greater Augusta Elder Abuse Taskforce.
Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at: