Skilled Nursing facilities are places for seniors and others who don’t need hospitalization, but can no longer care for themselves at home. Unfortunately, the place that is supposed to be a safe haven is just the opposite when the residents are subjected to abuse. Compared to other forms, sexual abuse in nursing homes doesn’t occur as often, but it appears to be increasing. According to the Administration for Community Living, there have been over 20,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes over the past 20 years. This equates to be about three people being sexually abused at a nursing home every day.
Because there’s no national database, it’s difficult to know how extensive this problem really is. Given the stigma associated with sexual abuse and the illnesses such as dementia that many patients suffer, many cases go unreported. The Covid-19 panic has only made things worse due to social distancing that has made it more difficult to detect signs of abuse.
Definition of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is defined as the unwelcome physical or sexual contact with another person without their consent. This includes the following:
- Any inappropriate touching of a person’s body (not just the genital areas);
- Sexual assault or sexual battery;
- Sexual harassment; and/or
- Taking sexually explicit photos/videos.
The Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
The nursing home is a place where predators can find easy prey on the vulnerably elder population with limited physical and mental disabilities and mobility issues. The perpetrators can be any of the following:
- Staff members;
- Other residents;
- Third parties, including intruders who trespass, vendors or contractors who do business with the nursing home; and/or
- Family members and other visitors.
Liability for Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
The nursing home administrators are obligated to provide a secure environment with well-trained employees who don’t put the residents at risk. If they negligently hire someone who abuses a resident, then they could be liable for damages. For example, if they did not conduct adequate background checks, adequately supervise the staff, or didn’t provide enough security for the residents.
Signs that Sexual Abuse has Occurred
There are certain things to look out for to see if someone has been sexually abused in their nursing home:
- Unexplained development of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or genital infection;
- Sustaining a pelvic injury;
- Pain or irritation of the genital areas;
- Panic attacks;
- Mood swings; and/or
- Having problems walking or sitting.
If you recognize any of these signs and suspect abuse has occurred, then you should call the authorities, Adult Protective Services (APS), and report it to the administrators immediately.
Speak to Us Now for Help with Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse may not be as prevalent in nursing homes as other forms of abuse, but that doesn’t mean it is not happening. There aren’t always obvious symptoms. Even though it’s harder to track nursing home residents due to limited visitation and contact due to the pandemic, you must remain vigilant and have frequent communication to check on loved ones in nursing homes. If you or your loved one are concerned about incidents of sexual abuse in a nursing home, reach out to the experienced nursing home attorneys at Walton Law, APC to help you with these challenging circumstances. Contact us now to discuss this further.