INDIVIDUALS AT RISK
In 2006, the Wisconsin legislature made changes in Wisconsin law to address abuse against elderly people and younger vulnerable adults. The focus has been on broadening the scope of the Individual-at-Risk restraining order statute, which would make it easier for a person to obtain such a restraining order.
There are many types of abuse against elderly and young vulnerable adults including physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, emotional abuse, and psychological abuse. Abusers can be anyone including a spouse, parent, adult child, relative, primary caregiver, or a friend.
In the past, the statute that allowed for restraining orders for individuals-at-risk was not effective in meeting the unique needs of those people who were at risk. The statute provided for a narrow definition of a vulnerable adult, required a specific relationship between the victim and abuser, was limited in scope as to the abusive behaviors that could be restrained, provided restrictions on who could petition for a restraining order, and the remedies available were not extensive.
The changes in the law have broadened the scope of those areas which had been the most restrictive. The definition of “vulnerable adult” has been expanded, the requirement of having a specific relationship between abuser and victim has been removed, the number of abusive behaviors have been increased, any person is now allowed to petition for a restraining order, and the remedies have expanded with the development of a true “no contact” order. For example, the type of abuse that a person can now seek protection for includes financial exploitation and emotional abuse. In addition, friends, relatives, and others can petition on behalf of the vulnerable adult, when it used to be that the vulnerable adult was only allowed to bring the petition.
The changes in the law have worked out for the best because a high percentage of the cases involving individuals-at-risk have involved relatives who file on behalf of the individual-at-risk. In addition, since 2006, two of the most common types of abuses alleged have been financial exploitation and emotional abuse.
If you or a loved one is an individual-at-risk, you should make sure to take advantage of the protections afforded to those individuals under Wisconsin law.