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The Silent Crime
The Silent Crime
"The issue of Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse has been in the forefront for prosecutors throughout Tennessee and has culminated in several new and updated laws which specifically address financial, physical and sexual exploitation."
- DISTRICT ATTORNEY MATTHEW STOWE
Sometimes it's the little things that we can do that make such a difference to an older person. Take time to help out with errands, shopping, yardwork, housekeeping, or anything that eases the burden of daily life for those who aren't able to get around with ease.
With only 1 in 10 cases reported, ELDER ABUSE is a growing crime, yet it often goes unnoticed and unaddressed. It has been called a Silent Epidemic as it affects the elderly across all socio-economic divides.
The term “Elder Abuse” is an all-purpose term that covers several types of abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder abuse as "intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or 'trusted' individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. In many states, younger adults with disabilities may qualify for the same services and protections.
Over the past three years, Tennessee’s District Attorneys General have worked with lawmakers to craft better laws with tougher penalties to combat elder abuse.
24th District’s D.A. Matthew Stowe and District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis led the development of sweeping new legislation initiated by Tennessee’s Conference of District Attorneys General.
Tennessee's Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act was passed in three major sections which addressed Financial Abuse (2017), Neglect and Sexual Abuse/Exploitation (2018), and Physical and Psychological Abuse (2019) .
Studies reveal that abuse of elders/vulnerable adults is often underreported due to shame or embarrassment. Unlike victims of random crimes, most perpetrators are known to their victims and may be family, caregivers or medical personnel. Because of the close relationships, victims are often too frightened to seek help.
Over the past three years, Tennessee legislators, district attorneys and advocate groups have worked to produce a modernized collection of laws specifically tailored to address abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.
2017: The Senior Financial Protection & Securities Modernization Act was passed which better protects seniors (age 65 and older) and other vulnerable adults from financial fraud and exploitation by providing tools to financial organizations, such as Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Securities Division, banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, agents, representatives, and others in the securities industry. In addition to allowing for broader oversight of elderly client accounts, the new law provides for delays in disbursements up to 15 days if fraud is suspected. Civil penalties for financial fraud of elders have been doubled, and regulatory standards have been modernized.
2018: The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018 updates current law pertaining to physical and sexual abuse of elders and vulnerable adults. This statute distinguishes physical and sexual abuse as felony offenses and increases its penalties and fines. The act of 2018 simplifies easier reporting of abuse by allowing for anonymous reports.
2019: The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019brought enhanced and higher classified penalties to forms of abuse that result in physical or serious harm. An important new aspect of the law is that is widens the authority in seeking orders of protection for abused elders to conservators, agents/employees of the Commission on Aging and Disability, attorneys ad litem, as well as the elder adults themselves.
Tennessee now requires that anyone who suspects abuse must report it, however you have the option remain anonymous. In an emergency, always call 911 first.
Additionally, Tennessee has created an Abuse Registry where convicted abusers are now required to be registered. The database is available to the public online at https://apps.health.tn.gov/abuseregistry.
To make a report to local and state authorities call Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366or make a report online at https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/.
(Click the box at the bottom of the page and hit CONTINUE to go to the reporting form).
So many people have worked hard to fine tune this comprehensive legislation.
Below are my special thanks to key people who have worked with my committee in making Tennessee's elder and vulnerable adult communities safer.
-District Attorney General Matthew Stowe (TN-24)
Chairman, Elder Abuse Committee / TN District Attorneys Conference
Thanks to the leadership of the Tennessee District Attorneys Conference led by Executive Director, Jerry Estes, Tennessee’s lawmakers coordinated with District Attorneys in analyzing and targeting problems in current law from the advantage of those on the front line of fighting abuse.
A very special appreciation is extended to District Attorney Lisa Zavoginnais (TN-31) for her partnership in creating and driving this comprehensive initiative.
Special recognition is extended to Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-TN-38) and State Sen. Mark Norris (R-TN-32) for their strident support within the General Assembly and sponsorship to enact these new protections for our most vulnerable in 2017 and 2018.
Do you need to report suspected abuse, neglect, or self-neglect of a vulnerable or elderly adult? Call: Toll Free 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366) Or, report suspected abuse online at our secure site: https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/
All reports are confidential and can remain anonymous.