TW: RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT
When making the decision to put a loved one under the care of a nursing home, one should never have to fear for their safety in the hands of skilled caretakers. Senior citizens deserve to live with dignity and respect, but in their frailest days they fall victim to the inadequate standards maintained within nursing homes. One of the observed issues to stem from nursing homes in America is the sexual abuse of residents, which is a consequence of the long term care system being unequipped to handle the demand for care from the aging population. As a result, it is not uncommon for nursing home staff to be poorly or improperly trained, which paves way to the abuses and violations that are far more common in nursing homes than most realize.
In many cases of sexual assault within care facilities, governmental officials that oversee them do little, and in some cases nothing, to stop it. Many incidents of sexual abuse often go unreported, and those that do get investigated are often handled with reluctance to believe victims with failing memories or confused accusations.
As reported by the Administration for Community Living, there have been over 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes within the United States over the last 20 years. This means that every day around three people in nursing homes are sexually abused, but with incidents of sexual abuse being far underreported this number is expected to be much larger.
INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Predators find elderly patients to be easy prey due to their high rates of memory impairment, in addition to their weakening physical condition and social isolation from family and friends. In a 2017 investigation conducted by CNN, they found more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited by the federal government for mishandling or failing to prevent cases of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse.
In their analysis, CNN found over 500 facilities had been citied for failing to report or investigate allegations of sexual abuse to authorities. Some of the facilities were also cited for not properly screening employees for abusive pasts. By cutting corners and hiding reports of incidents, nursing homes have shown their priority in protecting themselves over the wellbeing of the vulnerable population in their care.
Even in facilities where there were no allegations of cover-up by staff or directors, documents still highlighted a failure to preserve evidence of reports. Residents who alleged abuse would be given a shower, or crime scenes would be disturbed by the washing of sheets. In their attempt to cover-up the allegations, DNA evidence is lost which allows for the incidents to be brushed away.
SIGNS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
The systemic failures of nursing homes make it exceptionally difficult for victims to receive justice, and even easier for perpetrators to get away with their heinous transgressions. Because of this, it’s important to know the signs of sexual abuse in order to properly build a case against the perpetrator.
Physical signs include the following:
- Bruises on genitals, thighs, breasts, or mouth
- Pelvic injuries
- Torn, stained, or bloody clothing or bed sheets
- Sudden difficulty walking or sitting
- Unexplained vaginal or rectal bleeding
PROTECTING YOUR LOVED ONES FROM ELDER ABUSE
The biggest thing you can do to help seniors in your community is to be vigilant. Talk to the seniors in your life and keep an eye out for signs of abuse. Be a spokesperson for change, and advocate for existing victims, so that more seniors feel comfortable coming forward and reporting abusive situations. And most importantly, if you suspect a friend or loved one is the victim of abuse, learn how to report elder abuse, and get them the representation and support that they deserve.
If you suspect your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse, report the abuse immediately, and ask for help removing them from their situation and finding a new care solution. Seeking assistance for a civil case regarding sexual abuse? The elder abuse attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP are eager to help. Fill out our online contact form or give us a call today at (858) 252-3143 to begin on the path towards justice for your elderly loved one.