According to a 2015 NCBI article, the sexual abuse of vulnerable elderly adults has little research—in particular, sexual abuse of the elderly when it occurs in a nursing home. The conclusion of the article found that sexual abuse of the elderly does occur in nursing homes—as well as in assisted living facilities and the homes of the elderly, with both elderly men and elderly women as victims. In a nursing home situation, the perpetrators of sexual abuse are primarily staff, although, on occasion, other unsupervised residents are the perpetrators.
The elderly may have medical issues that prevent them from communicating effectively. This inability to communicate can interfere with the ability of the senior to report sexual abuse. Those who suffer cognitive issues, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, are more likely to become victims of sexual abuse, and less likely to be able to report the abuse. Sexual abuse of the elderly is often accompanied by emotional and/or physical abuse and is a tragedy in our country that occurs much more often than we might like to believe.
When it happens to our own loved one, it can be devastating—both for the victim and for his or her family. If you find yourself in this untenable position, the Finn Law Firm can help. Serving the Chicago area and beyond, we fully understand the level of devastation you are experiencing, and we want to offer some real help to you and the victim of elder sexual abuse. We will work hard on your behalf to ensure there is justice following this trauma.
Sexual abuse is defined as nonconsenting sexual contact of any kind and is believed to be one of the most hidden, least acknowledged forms of elder abuse or elder mistreatment. Any type of sexual contact with any person incapable of given consent is considered sexual abuse. This can include unwanted touching, sexual assault, sexual battery, coerced nudity, sexually explicit photographing, sodomy, and rape.
A study published in the Journal of Abuse, and reported by nursinghomeabusecenter.com, found that about 83 percent of victims of elder sexual abuse reside in an institutional care center, such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other long-term care facilities. Twenty-seven percent of elder sexual abuse incidents occur either in the home of the victim or the home of the perpetrator.
The signs and indicators of sexual abuse against the elderly can either be physical or behavioral. Physical signs of elder sexual abuse include pelvic injuries, bruising on or around the breasts or genitals, difficulty walking or sitting, bloody underwear, an STD diagnosis, or bruising on the inner thighs. Behavioral signs of elder sexual abuse include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, agitation, signs of PTSD, withdrawing socially or emotionally from others, engaging in inappropriate sexual activities, or attempting suicide.
Nursinghomeabusecenter.com reports that more than 80 percent of elder sexual abuse offenders are the caregivers for the senior. They may be caregivers in the home, caregivers in another person’s home, caregivers in a nursing home, or caregivers in an assisted living facility. Sadly, while the statistics are not particularly clear, a significant level of the elderly are sexually abused by people known to them—their family members, friends, or caregivers. CNN published an extensive piece in 2017 about elder abuse in the United States—including sexual abuse—which detailed multiple times when a nursing home staff member sexually abused residents time and time again before they were finally caught.
Nursinghomeabusecenter.com found that victims of elder sexual abuse are less likely to be believed if they tell another person, particularly when there are no clear signs of trauma on the body. The same article notes that, according to data from the Department of Justice and the World Health Organization, sexual abuse of the elderly is the least reported type of elder abuse, despite the fact that there have been almost 16,000 reports of sexual abuse in nursing homes made since the year 2000. Additionally, between 2013 and 2016, CNN data found that more than 1,000 nursing homes across the United States were cited for instances of sexual abuse.
Statistics such as these are truly horrifying, particularly for those whose elderly loved ones are cared for by another person or in a nursing home or an assisted living facility—or by those who are approaching the age where they themselves could well end up with an abusive caregiver. The risk of elder sexual abuse can be reduced by putting systems in place which prevent sexual abuse right from the start. When there are significant levels of community support and services for the elderly—as well as for their caretakers—the risk factors associated with elder sexual abuse are reduced.
Increased funding can help train those who work with the elderly to prevent and detect incidences of elder abuse. The elderly can also be empowered through social programs that reduce isolation and can give seniors the courage to speak up when they are being abused. Finally, relatives and friends of seniors must be able to recognize the warning signs of abuse, allowing all of us to recognize abuse, prevent the abuse, and report the abuse.
There are certain things you should do if you suspect your elderly loved one is being sexually abused, including:
The Finn Law Firm has the experience, the legal knowledge, and the skill set necessary to help you protect your loved one from elder sexual abuse or other types of abuse. When you contact the Finn Law Firm, you will speak directly to the firm’s principal attorney, Larry Finn, throughout the development of your case. If your loved one is entitled to receive compensation for the abuse, the Finn Law Firm will work aggressively to ensure that happens. While we understand there is nothing, we can do to change the past or the devastation of elder sexual abuse, we will do everything in our power to make the future a better, safer place for the senior. We offer free consultations—contact the Finn Law Firm today.