When Nursing Home Abuse Becomes Sexual

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Madeleine Jones
August 7, 2017

elder with staff, nursing home abuse injuryElderly nursing home residents often fall victim to sexual abuse perpetrated by nursing home staff, and even other residents. Women and men are victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes, and many assaults or attacks go unreported. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to negligence, call an experienced Las Vegas injury attorney at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

The law defines sexual abuse as non-consenting sexual contact, including contact with any person who is incapable of giving consent. The definition of sexual abuse includes all types of sexual battery or assault, as well as forced nudity, sexually explicit photography, and any type of unwanted touching. In nursing homes across the country, sexual abuse occurs as a hidden form of elder abuse that often goes unreported. It is the least acknowledged and most unreported type of elder abuse an injury lawyer sees because most residents don’t speak up.

Elderly nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse because they are dependent on their caregivers for so many things. Those suffering from chronic illnesses and behavioral or cognitive problems are at higher risk of sexual abuse, as well as physical and emotional abuse. Studies show that multiple types of abuse and repeat offenses often occur to the most elderly female residents with cognitive problems.

World Health Organization Studies

Research done by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that both women and men are victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes, but most residents who report abuse to an injury lawyer are women. It’s believed that the majority of men who experience sexual abuse don’t report it. Studies reveal that gender is less important to perpetrators. Instead, they focus more on physical and emotional issues like fragility, dependency, and cognitive decline because they are less likely to get caught or to be reported to authorities.

WHO nursing home research shows that a large percentage of victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes are cognitively impaired from Alzheimer’s, dementia, strokes, and brain injuries or have been diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses. Many victims are physically frail and often confined to a wheelchair or bed with reduced mobility. The oldest patients, typically between ages 79 and 99, are frequently targeted for sexual abuse in nursing homes, and many of these incidents go unreported to nursing home officials or an injury lawyer.

Studies show that alleged and confirmed perpetrators are predominantly men between the ages of 18 and 80, but some women are also offenders. The most common perpetrators are younger nursing home staff, but elderly nursing home residents also commit sexual abuse. In many cases, abusers show some type of cognitive impairment, mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, or past criminal history, including previous acts of sexual abuse. According to research, most offenders look for sexual abuse victims who are fragile and defenseless, so they are less likely to get caught or reported. In many cases of nursing home sexual abuse, it’s often a family member or relative of a victim who contacts an injury lawyer to report the abuse and file a personal injury claim.

CNN Investigation Reveals the Truth

A recent CNN investigation into sexual abuse and assault in U.S. nursing homes revealed that more than 1,000 nursing homes or long-term care facilities have received citations for improper handling or failure to prevent alleged cases of sexual abuse and assault at their facilities. The investigation shows that this number is likely much higher because many victims do not report abuse or assault due to fear and intimidation. The number of sexual abuse and assault cases that go unreported each year in nursing homes is estimated to be well into the thousands.

During the CNN investigation, reporters noted that government agencies do little to track and document instances of sexual abuse and assault that occur in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Documents show that nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because personnel often didn’t believe residents who alleged the sexual assaults. In many cases, state regulators were also slow to react to allegations and failed to flag patterns of repeated abuse by nursing home caregivers. During the investigation, CNN interviewed government agencies and health departments that oversee long-term care facilities in all 50 states.

In Nevada, regulations that govern nursing homes are overseen by the State of Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division. In 2011, requirements for elder abuse training were put into place for all directors, administrators, and new employees of Nevada nursing homes. These requirements impact all existing nursing homes, as well as all new applicants of proposed skilled nursing home facilities, intermediate or long-term care facilities, and other special care facilities. Nevada nursing home laws require all directors, administrators, and employees to participate in annual training programs that focus on standards of quality care and recognizing the signs of elder abuse and neglect.