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Going Nuts Over Nutella: Elder Abuse No-Contest

Nutella Fight.jpg

A very public case of elder abuse had its day in court last week, with the offender left no reasonable choice but to throw up his hands and plead no-contest to charges. 24-year-old Burbank resident Derrick Gharabighi made his plea at Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he was facing a count of elder abuse for assaulting senior citizen Sahak Sahakian in a Costco. And the reason for the attack is about as ridiculous as they come: Nutella.

Nutella, a tasty chocolate-hazelnut spread that first gained popularity in Europe, is also a consumer favorite among Americans. Yet on September 20th of this year, Garabighi took "going nuts" over Nutella to a whole new level.

Late that morning, all was well in Costco as shoppers went about their business, loading the latest super-size discounts into their carts and taking samples from the various goodies on offer. The Nutella-covered waffles were apparently a hot item and going fast. With four samples left, Derrick Gharabighi approached the stand and began helping himself, quickly devouring three of the four. 78-year-old Sahak Sahakian, also reached for a sample but had his hand pushed away by Gharabighi, who said he was "trying to eat." Exasperated, Sahakian told the young man to refrain from taking all the waffles, after which Gharabighi punched him in the head for his admonishment. He was taken to the emergency room, where he was treated for a gash and swelling to his left eye.

Gharabighi was arrested for his attack on the elderly Sahakian, and after making his plea he'll face up to two years in jail. While this infamous Nutella case makes for easy headlines, most instances of elder abuse are hidden away from public view and much harder to track and prosecute. Even more disconcerting, elder abuse is often perpetrated by family members within the home, meaning that victims will often be reluctant to come forward out of a sense of shame, isolation, hopelessness, or wanting to cover for the abuser.

Elder abuse is a clear threat to our senior citizens, but rarely is it as obvious as Gharabighi's assault on Sahakian in Costco over Nutella. Elders are just as vulnerable as children to abuse and exploitation, and it's incumbent on each of us in our communities to protect loved ones, friends, and neighbors from this growing epidemic.

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