Experienced Attorneys Fighting Aggressively for Victims of Sexual Abuse and Rape in Nursing Homes

Rape and sexual abuse in nursing homes is disgusting and unimaginable. Tragically, sexual assaults inside long term care facilities do occur more than we’d like to think. Sexual abuse is defined as any sexual contact that is unwanted or nonconsensual. Sadly, sexual predators often target those that are vulnerable and defenseless such as the young, disabled, or elderly.

Sexual abuse of the elderly is referred to as “elder sexual abuse.” Types of elder sexual abuse include kissing, fondling, rape, sexual assault, coerced nudity, and sexual photography. Elderly persons in nursing homes who are separated from family, unable to physically defend themselves, suffer from confusion, or unable to communicate are seen as easy victims. Any sexual contact given without permission is both illegal and reprehensible. If you believe your loved one was raped or sexually assaulted in a nursing home, report the incident immediately.

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Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Sexual Assault

Sexual abuse can result in sudden behavioral changes in the victim. These behavioral changes include the following:

  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety or fear of a specific caregiver
  • Anxiety or fear of a specific anatomic location (site of the sexual abuse)

It is important to note that the behavioral symptoms listed above are also signs for many medical conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the physical signs of sexual abuse as well as the behavioral signs.

If one suspects sexual abuse, there are several physical signs and symptoms that one can watch for. These physical signs often accompany the behavioral changes listed above. Physical signs and symptoms of sexual abuse include the following:

  • Unexplained STDs or infections
  • Injury and bruising to the genital areas, thighs, or breasts
  • Pain or bleeding in the genital or anal areas
  • Torn or bloodied clothes or underwear
  • Difficulty walking or sitting

Victims of Rape in Nursing Homes

Perpetrators of sexual abuse generally target individuals deemed vulnerable and defenseless, such as the elderly. Statistics show that older women with some form of cognitive impairment (i.e. dementia or Alzheimer’s) are the most at risk for elder sexual abuse. This is because victims with cognitive impairment are less likely to communicate the abuse. If they do communicate the abuse, their accounts are less likely to be viewed as credible. Cases of sexual abuse are also more common for women who are more physically frail and require some form of assistance for walking or moving.

Perpetrators of Rape and Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes

In nearly all cases of elder sexual abuse, the perpetrator is a male. In cases of sexual abuse within a nursing home or other long-term care facility, the culprit is most commonly a fellow resident. A nursing home is legally responsible to screen all incoming residents and to know which, if any, of their residents are prone to sexual assault. Though the perpetrator of elder sexual abuse is more often a fellow resident within the nursing home or long-term care facility, this does not mean that other types of abusers do not exist. There are still many cases in which the perpetrator was a guest, staff member, or caretaker.

Concerns for Nursing Home Rape Victims

Elderly patients in nursing homes are at great risk of being targeted by sexual predators. This is because elderly patients generally exhibit both cognitive and physical impairments that make them vulnerable to abusers. Abusers view these cognitive and physical impairments as assets in helping them overpower and manipulate their victims as well as avoid prosecution.

Over 70% of cases of elder sexual abuse are reported to occur in nursing homes. It must be kept in mind that this statistic reflects only those cases that have been reported. Elderly patients typically have cognitive disabilities that hinder their ability to report or substantiate their abuse. In addition, elderly victims of sexual abuse may also fear retaliation from their caregiver or have generational stigmas that discourage them from reporting said abuse. It is believed that most incidents of rape inside nursing homes go unreported.

Sexual abuse within nursing homes is viewed as an especially grievous crime. The nursing home is intended to be a safe environment, existing to provide safety and care for all of its patients. In order to uphold a standard of safety, care, and trust, all nursing homes must establish safeguards to help prevent incidences of sexual abuse. Common safeguards include security clearance for visitors, outer doors kept locked at night, frequent welfare checks on patients, and background checks for staff. It is also necessary that nursing home staff be trained to recognize and report sexual abuse. Caregivers and medical professionals are required by law to report any suspected case of abuse.

Lawsuits Regarding Elder Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is known to occur in nursing homes and extended-stay facilities. In one case described within the Marquette Law School journal Marquette Elder’s Advisor, a male resident was found attempting to rape an elderly female patient. According to case files, “the male resident had an extensive history of inappropriate sexual contact, fondling, and propositioning of female staff and residents. Facility staff [was] aware of this resident’s sexually aggressive behavior, but failed to take protective measures to prevent abuse.”

In another case described in a Pennsylvania brochure, a female resident was also sexually abused by a fellow resident. The victim was an elderly woman who suffered from dementia and was unable to dress or undress without assistance. In this instance of sexual abuse, staff members found her and another resident nude in her bed. A staff member with a guilty conscience reported the incident to a family member months later. Upon investigation, it was learned that the management of the nursing home allowed residents to kiss or fondle each other despite the inability of some patients to give consent.

Family members must remain vigilant to the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. In the two cases described above, the victims brought malpractice suits against the nursing home for not protecting them from harm. If you feel that a loved one was victimized by a nursing home employee or resident, our attorneys are here to help you and your family. We are also here to help if you feel that the nursing home employee(s) failed to immediately report suspicions of sexual abuse to the authorities.

As nursing home abuse attorneys with years of experience in the field, our lawyers at the Senior Justice Law Firm have handled multiple sexual assault cases against nursing homes. In some cases, the allegations involved a resident on resident sexual assault. In one shocking case, the allegations involved a staff member inappropriately fondling residents. Regardless of who the perpetrator is, our experienced elder abuse attorneys are here to help you through this trying time. Call us now to discuss your potential options. Our compassionate, caring nursing home abuse attorneys are available now at 1-844-253-8919.

What is Sexual Abuse

Sources:

Burgess A. “Elder Sexual Assault: Technical Assistance Manual for Pennsylvania’s Sexual Violence Centers.” 2004.

Hawks R.A. “Grandparent Molesting: Sexual Abuse of Elderly Nursing Home Residents and its Prevention.” Marquette Elder’s Advisor. Fall, vol. 8, no. 1.

National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA). “Sexual Abuse.”

Teaster P.B. and Roberto K.A. “Sexual Abuse of Older Adults: APS Cases and Outcomes.” The Gerontologist, Mar. 2004, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 788-796.