With the Me Too movement in full swing, more and more victims of sexual abuse are finding their voices and gaining the courage to speak out against assailants. The group that is perhaps the least empowered by the new campaign is the elderly. While sexual assault runs rampant throughout nursing homes and long-term care facilities, many times, the abuse goes unreported.
Sexual Abuse: A Frequent Evil in Nursing Homes
A February 2017 CNN report detailed just how serious the problem is. Since 2000, over 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been reported. While that number appears high, officials warn that the true figure of actual assaults is likely much higher. The reported 16,000 only accounts for cases that have been looked into and resolved by state long-term care ombudsmen; it does not account for other allegations.
According to CNN’s investigation, 226 nursing homes failed to protect residents and investigate substantiated sexual assault claims between 2010 and 2015. Of those facilities, 60 percent were fined, yet only 16 homes ceased to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding as a result.
Whether in an act of unintentional or willful negligence, over 1,000 nursing homes were given citations by the U.S. government between 2013 and 2016 for improperly handling or not preventing crimes of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse against the facility’s residents.
Why Does Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes Go Unreported?
Unfortunately, some victims are deemed unreliable witnesses, as they suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or other diseases that can confuse their thinking. Others cannot speak, or they have medical conditions that prevent them from ever reporting the abuse. Sadly, when residents with such conditions are assaulted or raped, their allegations are not always taken seriously and may be seen as unfounded.
Other facilities have been accused of impeding investigations or covering up alleged abuse. In order to avoid fines or a slash in Medicare and Medicaid funding, it is not unheard of for a facility to avoid reporting the incident.
On the flip side, some administrators and long-term care facilities are dedicated to protecting their residents, but that becomes a challenging task when the resident is unable to recall who the perpetrator was or additional details of the assault.
What Are Signs of Sexual Abuse?
If you suspect foul play involving your loved has occurred at his or her facility, there are several signs you can look for that are frequent indicators of assault.
- Rips or tears on the skin
- Newly developed bruising
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Newly developed anxiety
- Difficulty sitting or walking
- Bloody, torn or stained undergarments
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Sexually transmitted diseases
While this is not an exhaustive list, signs or changes in any of the above-listed ways should be looked into and taken seriously, especially if the victim has voiced a complaint but cannot recall all of the details due to a health condition.
What To Do if You Suspect Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse should be reported to authorities or Adult Protective Services, so the allegation may be investigated and protective measures may be taken for your loved one.
Additional services such as medication and counseling may be available for those who have been affected by sexual assault, and as a result, are struggling with further complications, such as behavioral changes, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sexual assault is never something to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, the elderly in society are some of the most vulnerable to it.
If you or someone you know has endured sexual abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility or has experienced negligence through the inappropriate handling of a sexual assault claim, please call us at (901) 322-4232 for a free consultation. We have years of experience in handling delicate cases of nursing home abuse, and we would be glad to have the opportunity to help you during a difficult time.