According to CBS2, Iowa is the only state in the nation where elder abuse is not a crime and as such, FBI data says 10 percent of people 60 and over experience elder abuse each year, nationwide.
Full passage of an Iowa bill that has already cleared the House will change all this, and rightfully so.
Elder abuse on the rise during the pandemic
Unfortunately, it's not a new issue and is only increasing during the pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, a 37 percent increase in dependent abuse cases were seen by the Iowa State Department of Human Services.
Republican representative Dustin Hite decided it was high time to get much tougher on those people targeting those victims in Iowa.
An issue facing rare bipartisanship
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "legislation increasing penalties for people convicted of abusing, assaulting or exploiting older Iowans was approved 95-0 Wednesday."
This is an amended version of Senate File 522, originated by Hite, who says provisions were added to ensure that relatives would not be charged for what could be seen as acts of assistance. For example:
a family needs to take their relatives' car keys away because it's not safe for them to drive anymore, they don't want to see that family member punished. That’s not the type of conduct we are trying to criminalize. We want people to be able to do the steps they need to protect the older Iowans.
If passed, charges for elder abuse would range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class C felony, depending on injuries. It also addresses financial exploitation, which, based on the amount, would range from charges of a serious misdemeanor to Class B felony.
Hite is also an attorney so he knows the ins and outs of such abuse cases well and said in a statement:
Many of us have dealt with these situations, whether it involves family members, friends, neighbors, you name it. Whether it's a family member, whether it's a huckster or whether it's somebody else that this person trusts, we see that they can take advantage of what can be some of our most vulnerable Iowans.”
If approved in the Senate, the bill would go to the desk of Governor Reynolds. It certainly seems she can plan on having fresh pens ready as the previous version passed 47-0.