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Sexual Abuse at Nursing Homes a Concern in South Florida

Sexual assault cases in general are one of the most vastly under-reported crimes, despite the immensely traumatic physical and emotional impact.

nursing home abuse lawyers in West Palm Beach know that victims in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable, for numerous reasons. They may be in constant fear of their aggressor. If they suffer dementia, they may be confused about what’s happened. They may also fear, as so many victims do, that they won’t be believed.

In one recent case out of Minnesota, this is precisely what happened, with the nursing home administrator not only dismissing the victim’s account, while her abuser continued to work at the facility, but also locking her in a psychiatric unit. This same administrator then reportedly withheld information when criminal investigators did launch an inquiry.

The 89-year-old victim would later report that she had been preparing for bed one evening when a 30-year-old aide entered her room. She invited him to watch a movie with her, but he then began to take his clothes off. She said she pointed to photograph of her husband that was on the shelf and told the aide, “It’s not right.” However, the man proceeded with the sexual assault.

Her sheets and underwear were covered with blood. The woman told her daughter the next morning what had happened, and she immediately called police.

Later that day, the aide conceded that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with the woman, but insisted it was consensual.

The following day, the administrator had the woman transported to a nearby hospital, where she was locked in a psychiatric ward for three days while an internal investigation was conducted.

It was only after this stay that the woman was given a full physical examination, at which point a doctor would later testify that a laceration resulting from the assault was the largest tear she had ever seen in her six-year career.

During the woman’s stay at the hospital, staffers there say they were never informed that the aide had already admitted to having sex with the woman.

Later, in an interview with police, the administrator indicated that the encounter was consensual and that the 89-year-old “mercilessly flirts” with the “boy.” This same administrator later told a sexual assault advocate that the elderly woman was “making it up,” and again indicated that the woman was a “flirt.”

While there has been a great deal of debate over whether nursing home patients can engage in consensual encounters, any situation where there is a power imbalance should immediately raise red flags.

This woman remained resolved throughout the criminal investigation process.The aide was recently sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

Neither the nursing home nor the administrator faced any sanctions by the state health department. The woman has since filed a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home.

Because victims may have an extremely difficult time expressing what happened, it’s important for loved ones to be able to recognize the signs. Take note of any bruising around private areas or the upper abdomen, bleeding, discomfort while walking or sitting, irritation of the genitals or the presence of sexually transmitted disease. Signs of sudden depression or fear can also be a red flag warning.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Hermantown senior living home accused of withholding facts in rape case, Feb. 21, 2014, By Chris Serres, Star Tribune

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Abuse Liability Not Curtailed by “Survival Law” in Florida, Feb. 10, 2014, Lantana Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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