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Prevalent and Unspoken: Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes

A recent case out of Virginia illustrates a vastly under-reported crime in nursing homes in Palm Beach and throughout the country: sexual assault.

Our Palm Beach County nursing home abuse attorneys understand that so far, two administrators have been criminally charged with failing to report a civil charge for reportedly trying to cover up the molestation of several residents by a nursing aide.

Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to sexual assaults for a number of reasons, including:

–They are often unable to articulate what has happened to them.

–They physically can’t fight back or are afraid to.

–They rely on staff at the home for their every need, and they fear repercussions if they reveal the truth.

–They fear they won’t be believed or that it will simply be covered up.

Such attacks have been carried out by staff members, as well as fellow patients. In both scenarios, the facility has a duty to protect those in its charge. If they find that an incident or attack has occurred, they have a legal obligation to report it to law enforcement officials. Too often, however, that doesn’t happen – and that’s what appeared to take place here.

According to a local news report, a 47-year-old nursing aide had sexually assaulted a number of female residents at the center.

One of those was a woman who had suffered a brain injury in the 1990s and was partially paralyzed. He reportedly attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him. A nurse therapist reportedly saw the aide leaving the victim’s room one day and that the patient was very upset. Administrators were told of the incident, but after a half-hour meeting with the victim, they determined no wrong had taken place.

An incident involving another patient did result in criminal charges, with the aid arrested for felony aggravated sexual battery, as well as misdemeanor sexual assault against a patient who accused him of fondling her.

At that same facility, an elderly resident was arrested just a few months earlier on charges that he sexually assaulted a 71-year-old female resident at the home.

These horrifying scenarios reportedly all occurred at a single facility – but they are by no means isolated. Statistics regarding sexual assaults in nursing homes are scarce – precisely because it is such an under-reported crime. We do know, however, that nearly 20 percent of the women raped every year are over the age of 60, and the vast majority of those – about 70 percent – are assaulted in a nursing home.

The effect of such an assault can’t be underscored enough – even if the patient also suffers dementia or some similar affliction. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, more than half of those nursing home sexual assault victims died within a year of the attack.

It’s often up to family members to spot the warning signs. Some red flags may be:

–A diagnosis of a sexually-transmitted disease;

–A display of shame or embarrassment when questioned about a mark or bruise;

–Strong feelings or fear relating to a particular staff member or fellow resident;

–Crying or depression;

–A caregiver who appears overly-attentive or intrusive;

–Genital trauma or sensitivity.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Second Envoy administrator charged, By Brad Zinn, Staunton News Leader

More Blog Entries:
More than 90 Percent of Nursing Homes Employ a Convict, Aug. 1, 2012, Palm Beach County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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