“A change to Tennessee law, effective Jan. 1, will make it a crime for vulnerable and elderly adults to be exposed to sexual conduct and pornography.”
A change in the law will make it a crime for vulnerable and the elderly to be exposed to sexual conduct and pornography. This makes it easier for Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams or “VAPITs” in Tennessee to prosecute sexual exploitation cases, Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said. These teams coordinate investigations of vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and exploitation cases, reports The Bristol Herald-Courier, in its recent article, “Law to benefit vulnerable and elderly adults.”
Tennessee defines vulnerable adults as anyone over the age of 18 who, because of a mental or physical disability, is unable to manage their resources, perform daily tasks, or protect themselves from abusive situations. Seniors 70 and older are considered elderly adults.
A 2017 law gave additional resources for abuse outreach and awareness, better trained officers to detect vulnerable adult abuse and more resources to help victims. This included requiring all Tennessee district attorneys to create a multi-disciplinary VAPIT unit.
“The more you let people know what’s out there, the resources and what the law is, we hope that more people will report it because we have an ever-increasing population of vulnerable adults,” Staubus said. “Most of the cases are elder abuse.”
There has been a big push in the past three to four years to improve laws against elder and vulnerable adult abuse, the District Attorney General said.
Staubus says that they’ve seen a large increase of prosecution and investigation of those cases, because of the change in the law.
However, he thinks one of the most important changes was the creation of VAPIT.
Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney General Mike Filetti added that the county’s VAPIT unit assists vulnerable and elderly adults, and aids in prosecuting cases.
The team includes officials from Adult Protective Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Tennessee’s Commission on Aging and Disability’s Collaborative Response to Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse program, as well as Sheriff’s Office and police department officers.
Reference: Bristol Herald-Courier (November 3, 2019) “Law to benefit vulnerable and elderly adults”