Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

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It may come as a surprise, but one of the more common types of nursing home abuse is sexual abuse. Elderly nursing home residents are easy prey for sexual predators because they are often weak and defenseless. They may also fall victim to sexual abuse because they had a stroke or other medical condition that caused them to lose their speech or motor skills. When a nursing home resident is unable to protect themselves or speak, the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual abuse increases.

Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual sexual contact, including unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, sodomy, sexual coercion, sexually-explicit photographing, and sexual harassment. It would include situations where the nursing home resident was forced, coerced, tricked, or manipulated into unwanted sexual contact and where the nursing home resident is too ill, frail, or mentally incapacitated to give consent. A nursing home resident can be sexually abused by a nursing home staff member, another resident, a stranger, or a family member in a variety of situations, including:

  • Sexual abuse by a nursing home staff member – Sexual abuse of a nursing home resident by a staff member often occurs, because the nursing home fails to conduct background investigations of potential employees. Some staff members are minimum-wage employees who go from one job to the next and have a lot of contact with nursing home residents. They may help residents bathe, dress, and go to the bathroom, which may create the opportunity for sexual abuse.

    When a nursing home fails to properly screen an employee who has a history of sexual abuse and that employee sexually abuses a resident, the nursing home can be liable for negligence. Sexual abuse by a staff member can also occur because the nursing home fails to properly supervise employees. This may result from understaffing or poor training. When a nursing home fails to properly supervise employees or properly train employees on how to spot sexual abuse and sexual abuse occurs, the nursing home can be held responsible.
  • Sexual abuse by another resident – Oftentimes, nursing homes are co-ed. In such settings, normal male-female relationships are bound to develop. Unfortunately, however, co-ed settings in nursing homes can give rise to the sexual abuse of one resident by another. Those residents who are weak and unable to resist or unable to speak may be an easy target for sexual abuse by another resident who knows of the potential victim's mental or physical challenges, or who isn't in a good state of mind.

    The nursing home can be held liable for negligence in these cases as well. The nursing home may not have supervised or trained staff members as well as it should have, or it may be understaffed.
  • Sexual abuse by a stranger – Sexual abuse by a stranger often occurs because the nursing home lacks adequate security and allows strangers to enter the facility. Strangers can also enter the facility when nursing home employees step outside to take a break or smoke and fail to lock the door when they re-enter. If a nursing home resident is sexually abused by a stranger who gains access to the facility under these circumstances, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.
  • Sexual abuse by a family member – When a person is placed in a nursing home, the resident's spouse may miss the relationship the two shared when they were at home. When the resident's mental or physical condition prohibits consensual sexual relations between spouses, the sexual act may rise to the level of sexual abuse. In these situations, nursing home staff members may fail to report the incident because of the legal relationship between the couple, and allow the abuse to continue. Under these circumstances, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.

Tips to Prevent Sexual Abuse Injuries in Nursing Homes

The following signs may indicate that your loved one is the victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home:

  • Unexplained difficulty with walking or sitting
  • Bruising and/or thumbprints on the inner thighs, genital area, buttocks, and/or breasts
  • Unexplained vaginal and/or anal bleeding
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted disease or genital infection
  • Unexplained genital irritation, injury, and/or redness
  • Presence of sperm in the vagina or anus
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Stained or bloody sheets
  • Rope burns on wrists or ankles
  • Fear, stress, anxiety, or a another strong reaction when a particular staff member approaches to help the resident with bathing, dressing, or toileting

If your loved one shows any of the above signs, you should:

  • Calmly but firmly express your concerns to your loved one. If your loved one tells you that he or she was the victim of sexual abuse, immediately report the incident to the police and get emergency medical help. Oftentimes, however, elderly people are afraid or embarrassed to admit that they were the victim of sexual abuse. Others may be too physically or mentally impaired to communicate the incident. In these situations, if you believe the warning signs are severe enough, call the police and get your loved one to the emergency room as soon as possible.
  • If your suspicions don't warrant immediate police intervention or emergency medical treatment, report the incident to the nursing home administrator and discuss your observations with your loved one's doctor. Then monitor the situation. If the warning signs continue, you should contact authorities.

Do You Have a Sexual Abuse Case Against a Nursing Home?

A nursing home that neglects residents fails to provide goods and services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness. Abuse is defined as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental anguish, or deprivation by an individual, including a caretaker, of goods or services necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being.

Federal and state law have regulations that a resident in a nursing home has the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, as well as involuntary seclusion. There are also federal and state regulations to prevent employing individuals convicted of abusing, neglecting, or mistreating individuals in a healthcare-related setting. Nursing homes must be thorough in their investigations of the past histories of individuals they consider hiring. The facility should do a record check with the Pennsylvania State Licensing Division and the State Nurse's Aide Registry.

If you or a loved one suffered from sexual abuse in a nursing home, or by an in-home caregiver, you may have a case.

If you have a nursing home abuse case and choose Edgar Snyder & Associates, we go to work for you. We investigate the nursing home to see if it performed a proper background check, or if the home was aware of any previous incident of neglect or abuse by the nurse's aide, staff member, or even another resident of the home. We gather evidence and use all the resources available to build a strong case and get you the compensation you deserve.

And remember, there's never a fee unless we get money for you – we guarantee it.

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