Actor Mickey Rooney tells Congress of abuse

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 2, 2011 5:26pm EST

1 of 2. Actor Mickey Rooney speaks at a Senate hearing on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Veteran actor Mickey Rooney on Wednesday urged elderly victims of abuse to speak up to anyone who will listen and described to a Senate panel his own suffering at the hands of a family member.

"If elder abuse happened to me, Mickey Rooney, it can happen to anyone," the 90-year-old actor said in testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

In court documents, Rooney accused his stepson Christopher Aber of intimidating and bullying him and blocking access to his mail. The documents also alleged Aber deprived Rooney of medications and food.

"My money was taken and misused. When I asked for information, I was told that I couldn't have any of my own information," Rooney told the committee. "I was literally left powerless."

Rooney rose to fame as a child star in the 1930s and 1940s when he made more than a dozen Andy Hardy movies. He appeared frequently alongside Judy Garland and, in his heyday, was one of Hollywood's biggest stars, receiving a junior Oscar in 1938.

Rooney continued to work in movies and television into his late 80s, appearing in the 2006 film comedy "Night at the Museum," among other works.

Rooney told the Senate committee he suffered in silence for years because "I couldn't muster the courage to seek the help I knew I needed."

He urged elderly victims to speak out whenever they could.

"Please, for yourself, end the cycle of abuse and do not allow yourself to be silenced any longer," he said.

Rooney eventually won a court order handing control of his affairs over to a Los Angeles attorney and obtained a restraining order against his stepson, who was ordered by the court to stay at least 100 yards from Rooney and his home.

In testimony to the Senate panel, Rooney suggested Congress enact legislation strengthening the law enforcement response to allegations of elder abuse.

A study by the Government Accountability Office released at the hearing estimated 14 percent of elderly Americans experienced some form of abuse in 2009.

The abuse can range from financial exploitation to physical harm and neglect.

The actual level of elder abuse may be far worse than estimated because many seniors become socially isolated or feel shame about their situation, Dr. Mark Lachs, who heads an elder abuse center in New York, said in testimony to the committee.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing Todd Eastham)

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