Octogenarian Solange Elizee said she experienced the scariest ordeal of her very long life last year when she was violently mugged in the elevator of her Jamaica apartment.
Despite the physical pain she suffered, Elizee, who turned 87 on Friday, said she does not live her life in fear and encourages other seniors to also be brave. The Haiti native spread this message of hope at the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults's celebration of National Crime Victim's Rights Week last Thursday.
"He beat me in that elevator, but I have my God and trust in God," she told the seniors who attended the celebration.
Elizee said her peers are targeted by all types of criminals who try to exploit their age and rob them not only of their money, rights and good, but also their dignity. Despite some of the techniques used by these predators, Elizee said older people can protect themselves by using their years of wisdom against their would-be attackers.
"My attacker thought I was weak, but today I am here," she said.
Elizee amazed the crowd by telling them her story in English, French and Spanish.
In March 2007 she was mugged in her apartment building on 170th Street after police said Jack Rhodes of Long Island City helped her get into the building. When they got into the elevator, Rhodes allegedly punched Elizee in the face several times and stole two rings and her pocketbook, according to police.
The attack came moments after Rhodes, 45, allegedly assaulted 101-year-old Rose Morat at the doorstep of her Jamaica Estates apartment building, knocked her down off her walker and stole her pocketbook and $33, police said. The attack on Morat was captured on the building's surveillance camera.
A month later, Rhodes was arrested and indicted on several charges, including assault and robbery as a hate crime. The criminal case is still in the pre-trial phase, according to a spokeswoman for the DA's office.
Although Elizee suffered bruises to her face, arm and body, she is still active in the community, according to Autumn Thompson, the JSOPA safety director.
"It's always wonderful when you can see an older person have so much courage," she said.
Elizee's presentation wrapped a program at the senior center that focused on creating awareness of crimes against elderly residents. The center invited guests from numerous non-profit organizations, such as the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged and the Office of Children and Family Services, to discuss ways to prevent other types of crimes against seniors.
Rebeca Gamez Djokic of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project told the audience that scam artists use sophisticated tricks to steal the elderly's personal information, such as credit card applications and sweepstakes offers that guarantee them prizes.
"You might be enticed to fill them out, but the No. 1 thing to do is to rip them up and throw them in the garbage," she said.
The celebration ended with a symbolic presentation by the seniors. Each member of the audience hung a specifically colored ribbon that represented a different type of crime on a tree to show solidarity against elder crimes.
Yellow ribbons symbolized domestic violence, blue elder abuse, green robbery, fuchia assault and orange identity theft.
"It's a nice gesture to empower our seniors," Thompson said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community News Group
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