Sexual Abuse of the Elderly in Nursing Homes

Many elderly residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities lack some physical and cognitive abilities, making them vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Sexual abuse is among the most revolting types of abuse committed against nursing home residents. In spite of the fact that thousands of elderly Americans suffer sexual abuse every year, the problem remains the most underreported, least detected, and least acknowledged form of abuse against seniors.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder sexual abuse as "non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person" or "[s]exual contact with any person incapable of giving consent." This definition includes "unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing." Besides touching, sexual abuse may also involve threats, lewd gestures, and other demonstrative or verbal acts of aggression. Typically, sexual abuse is accompanied by other types of abuse, particularly emotional and physical abuse.

How to Recognize Elder Sexual Abuse

Identifying elder sexual abuse presents certain difficulties as a result of the age of the victims. Since the residents of nursing home or assisted living facilities may be disabled or unable to communicate normally with loved ones, it is thought that a shocking 1 out of 6 instances of abuse actually go unreported. Researchers believe that elder abuse is proportionately as prevalent as child abuse, but elder abuse is reported less frequently. Family members are often reluctant or afraid to report abuse because they fear that the resident will be forced to leave the facility.

Further complicating matters, abuse may be perpetrated not just by nursing home staff and related contractors, but also by other residents. However, nursing homes may be liable for abuse performed by residents to other residents due to a lack of oversight or supervision.

Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

The most common physical signs of elder sexual abuse or assault in nursing homes include:

  • Vaginal and rectal bleeding
  • Vaginal and rectal discharge
  • Genital and rectal scarring
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Urinary infections or irritations
  • Bruises
  • Abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Gractures
  • General body soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Rope burns

The most common emotional signs, which resemble post-traumatic stress disorder or rape trauma syndrome, include:

  • Denial
  • Humiliation
  • Flashbacks
  • Intense fear
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Phobias
  • Rage

What You Can Do About Elder Sexual Abuse

A sexual abuse victim can bring a lawsuit against a nursing home or care facility for malpractice. Nursing homes are obligated to protect residents from harm as part of the nursing services they provide. This theory, similar to medical malpractice or breach of fiduciary duty in financial misconduct lawsuits, is based on a breach of the ordinary or reasonable care of trained and experienced medical professionals to the treatment of patients entrusted to them.

Pennsylvania & New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

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No matter how vigilant we are, we cannot watch our loved ones all the time. For those with an elder who has suffered sexual, emotional, or physical abuse while under the care of a nursing home, please contact us immediately to protect your legal rights. You can reach our team of elder abuse attorneys toll-free at 1-855-462-3330 or by using our online contact form.