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
November ushers in the holiday season filled with family and friends. It is also the time that the issue of caring for elderly and vulnerable adults is highlighted.
Tennessee has strengthened laws to provide greater penalties for abusers of elderly and vulnerable adults. Tennessee has also given a greater scope of assistance to various caregivers or providers to ensure the safety and security of those who are most at risk.
Join the Office of the District Attorney General and spread awareness for these initiatives:
Each November the home care and hospice community honors the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists, and social workers who make a remarkable difference for the patients and families they serve. These heroic caregivers play a central role in our health care system and in homes across the nation. To recognize their efforts, we call upon all Americans to commemorate the power of caring, both at the home and in their local communities and join with [INSERT AGENCY NAME] and the National Association for Home
Care & Hospice (NAHC) by celebrating November as National Home Care & Hospice Month.
Did you know that 70% of men and women over the age of 65 will need some kind of long-term care services? This can be very expensive, and can take a toll on the family as they try to figure out payment, roles of family members, and other logistics of making long-term decisions for a loved one.
When taking care of someone long term, it usually means feeding them, helping with personal care, bathing them, and helping with other daily tasks. Let’s come together to recognize and show support to those giving and receiving long-term care.
As parents age, most of us will find ourselves looking for assistance in dealing with their care. The pandemic has presented new realities that family caregivers face with their loved ones during these uncertain times.
The Caregiver Action Network has many helpful tips and resource guides to help family members that provide care for elderly or vulnerable adults.
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.