In nursing homes, sexual predators prey on the most vulnerable of victims, the elderly and those with cognitive conditions such as dementia. Sexual abuse in nursing homes is a severely underreported problem. The World Health Organization reports that 1.9 percent of elderly adults have reported being sexually abused in a nursing home, but they believe that the real number of residents being abused is much higher.
At Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers, we understand that sexual abuse is hard to talk to about, even with family members. There is still fear and stigma attached to being a sexual abuse victim. We strive to offer victims and their loved ones a compassionate and judgment-free space to talk about their experience with this type of abuse.
Our legal team has the ability and experience to investigate abuse claims and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions, while making sure you or your loved one gets the compensation they deserve. Contact our San Diego office today at (888) 233-5020 to set up a free case review with one of our attorneys.
Defining Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of the elderly can be defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact or sexual interaction. Sexual abuse has occurred when a nursing home resident has verbally said no to a sexual encounter and is forced into an interaction.
Sexual abuse of the elderly also includes situations where an individual does not have the cognitive or verbal ability to give or revoke consent. This can include individuals with certain medical conditions or cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Not being able to revoke consent is not a free invitation for sexual activity. However, sexual predators prey on these individuals because it can make getting away with the crime so much simpler.
Types of Sexual Abuse
Rape is a common form of sexual abuse, but it is not the only form of sexual abuse. This type of abuse can manifest itself in a number of different ways. No matter the type, any form of unwanted sexual contact could be considered abuse in a nursing home setting. These are other situations that can constitute sexual abuse:
- Forced nudity
- Forced masturbation or making someone watch masturbation
- Oral sex
- Taking sexually explicit photographs or videos
- Taking nude photographs of residents bathing or being cared for/dressed
Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse in nursing homes is not a topic that gets a lot of attention. It may seem like it is not a problem to be concerned about because the number of reports is so small. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is much more prevalent in nursing homes that most people think. Since it is severely underreported, many people may not realize that they should be looking out for warning signs of sexual abuse. In fact, many may not know what exactly it is that they are supposed to be watching for.
These are some of the more common warning signs associated with sexual abuse:
- Pelvic injuries or fractures
- Sudden problems walking or sitting
- Irritation or pain in or near genital areas
- Blood on undergarments or sheets
- Unexplained bruises in the genital area or thighs
- Depression or anxiety
- Panic attacks
- STD develops
- Social and emotional withdrawal
- Acting aggressive or sexual; demonstrating inappropriate behavior
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Unwilling or reluctant to cooperate with certain caregivers
- Suicide attempts
Why is it so important to notice warning signs like these? It is because most residents are unable or unwilling to come forward with accusations of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse has the power to make victims feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed, and thus reluctant to admit that they have been abused. This is a very sensitive and tough topic to talk about, even to close family members or friends.
Abusers may also target easy-to-prey-upon victims such as residents with cognitive impairments like dementia. These individuals may not have the power or verbal capacity to clearly communicate that they are being sexually abused. That is why it may be up to you to recognize that something is wrong with your loved one and take action. The team at Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers is here to help you. We have the resources available to investigate claims and get to the bottom of what is happening.
Why Does Sexual Abuse Go Unreported?
One of the reasons that sexual abuse goes unreported is because abusers may choose to prey on the most vulnerable elderly victims, those that can’t speak out. These victims tend to have physical impairments or cognitive conditions that make communication difficult. Unfortunately, even victims in the early stages of cognitive decline who do try to make their sexual abuse known may not be believed or have their claims taken seriously.
An in-depth report on CNN found that negligent nursing homes were failing their residents by not taking claims seriously or failing to follow up or investigate claims of abuse. Some nursing homes are systematically failing to protect residents because they find it hard to believe the victims or, in some instances, don’t want to face the scrutiny or consequences that may come from an investigation.
Cases may also go unreported because abusers who are also caregivers can threaten victims into silence. These people hold the key to food, water, and medication. They can easily retaliate against their victims by abusing them further, neglecting their needs, and withholding crucial care from them if they reveal the abuser’s secret.
Sexual abuse may also go unreported because of the stigma that continues to plague victims of this type of abuse and violence. Sexual abuse is a very difficult topic for victims to talk about. They may not be ready to handle the “judgment” they think they will receive from family or friends. While these are some of the more common reasons that victims may be reluctant to come forward, there are a variety of other reasons that may hinder or prevent a victim from claiming that they have been sexually abused.
Here are some of the other influences that may factor in:
- Victims can have cognitive conditions which limit their capacity to communicate, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Victims may have physical impairments that limit their capacity to communicate effectively
- Complaints are ignored or not taken seriously
- Complaints are not investigated so facilities can avoid fines
- Caregivers hired are improperly screened; background checks are not run
- Caregivers are inadequately trained
If you suspect that a loved one is being sexually abused, they need your love, understanding, and compassion now more than ever. The attorneys with Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers are ready to listen to your case and help you seek the justice you and your family deserve.
How Can a Lawyer Help Victims of Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is a dangerous matter, one that the legal team at Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers takes very seriously. Our team of San Diego nursing home abuse attorneys has the knowledge and compassion that is necessary to handle these types of cases with dignity and respect. Coming forward with claims of sexual abuse can be difficult, and we understand that for victims, the process can be painful. It may seem like they are reliving the experience all over again.
At Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers, we treat you and your family with the care you need while aggressively pursuing the abuser and/or the negligent nursing home. You and your loved ones deserve justice and compensation for everything that you have been through. We want to secure that justice and compensation for you so you can begin to feel safe and secure once more.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse while in the care of a nursing home facility, please come forward. You have legal rights. The parties responsible for your abuse deserve to be held accountable for their actions, and you deserve justice. We are committed to seeing you and your family through this difficult time. Contact Jurewitz Law Group | Injury & Accident Lawyers at (888) 233-5020 for a free case review today.