We would all like to think that elder sexual abuse does not happen, but the sad truth is that it occurs on a daily basis, and is often perpetrated in nursing homes by the very caregivers trusted with the victim’s wellbeing. The 2008 National Elder Mistreatment Study found that about 0.6 percent of those over age 60 suffer sexual elder abuse or mistreatment each year.
What is even more unfortunate is that only about 16 percent of victims ever report the abuse, according to the study. Because of the lack of reporting, few abusers actually face arrest or conviction.
Seniors who live in nursing homes may be at an increased risk since they are often unable to fight off their attackers or communicate about their ordeal. According to the 2010 National Ombudsman reporting system, sexual abuse comprised about seven percent of all mistreatment complaints in nursing homes.
What are examples of elder sexual abuse?
Any non-consensual contact that is sexual in nature may be sexual abuse. This includes acts that engage seniors who have dementia or are otherwise incapable of understanding the risks or giving consent. Among the most common methods of sexual abuse in nursing homes are:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexually explicit verbal harassment
- Explicit photography
- Coerced nudity
What are the signs of sexual abuse at a nursing home?
If your senior loved one is suffering from sexual abuse in her nursing home, you may see signs including:
- Unexplained bruising, especially around the breasts or genitals
- Unusual vaginal or anal bleeding
- Diagnosis of previously unknown sexually transmitted diseases
- Torn or stained underwear or sheets
- Reports from the senior or other residents of inappropriate sexual behaviors
It is important to note that there are a wide range of signs of abuse, and some types of sexual mistreatment leave no physical symptoms. If your loved one begins to withdraw socially, seems agitated, or has other unexplained emotional changes, discuss the possibility of abuse with a trusted healthcare provider.
What do I do if I suspect elder sexual abuse at the nursing home?
If you suspect abuse or mistreatment at a nursing home, call 911 or contact the local police immediately. Taking immediate action can protect your loved one and other residents from sexual predators who prey on vulnerable seniors.
If your loved one was a victim, you may want to take additional action, such as seeking medical treatment and considering a transfer to another facility.
Do I need to enlist the help of an attorney?
When a vulnerable senior becomes the victim of a sexual predator – or any type of nursing home abuse – she deserves to have strong advocates who will ensure she receives compensation to cover the damage done and to see that her abuser is not able to hurt others. The elder abuse attorneys at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault Co., L.P.A. work with seniors and their families to stop nursing home abuse in Ohio and southeast Michigan.
We can help protect your loved one from abusive caregivers and recover damages for her medical care and pain and suffering. Contact us today at 419-843-6663 to schedule an appointment.