Elder Sexual Abuse

Advanced age is no protection against sexual abuse.  Every year, innumerable elders across the United States are abused sexually by caretakers, family members, nursing home staff members or fellow members of a living facility.

The exact number of those elders abused is unknown: As with other forms of elder abuse, most elderly victims of sexual exploitation never report the abuse or attempt to seek help. Why?  Often they’re terrified of not being believed or of retribution from their abuser.  Further, many of the victims lack the mental or physical capacity to report the abuse – which is exactly why the abuser targets them.

If you suspect an elder is being sexually abused, speak up. We should leap to protect those members of our society who cannot or can no longer protect themselves.

Elderly Sexual Abuse

Elder sexual abuse occurs when a person over the age of 60 is forced, tricked or manipulated into unwanted sexual contact.  This includes contact that occurs without the elder’s knowledge or express, knowing consent.  Such contact can include physical sex acts, or the intentional touching of breasts, genitalia, inner thigh, anus, mouth or buttocks.  Sexual abuse may also include forcing an elder to watch sex acts or to undress.

Affects of Elder Sexual Abuse?

Elders suffering from abuse are more likely to have shorter lifespans than non-abused elders. In addition, their physical condition and frailty cause them to have more severe injuries than younger people enduring similar abuse. Such injuries may include bleeding, bruising and infection, vaginal tearing, pelvic injury and soft tissue or bone injuries.

The psychological effects of sexual abuse is also great. Sexually abused elders may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, sleep disturbances such as insomnia, and become very withdrawn.  The abuse may also exacerbate existing illness and may result in longer recovery times.

Signs of Nursing Home Sex Abuse

Certain signs of sexual abuse in elder are overt; others can easily be mistaken for signs of dementia or other age-related afflictions. If ever you notice any of the following signs, seriously consider the possibility that the elder is being sexually abused.

  • Vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Sexual transmitted disease
  • Bruises on the inner thighs or breasts
  • Complaints of pain or itching in the genitals
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Unexplained changes in behavior
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Increased withdrawal or fearfulness, especially around a particular individual
  • Increased aggression/hostility
  • Reports from elder that she or he is being sexually abused

What you should do if an elder is being sexually abused?

If you suspect that an elder in California is being sexually abused in a nursing home or elsewhere, seek help as quickly as possible.

  • If the person is in life-threatening danger, call 911 or the police immediately.
  • For abuse in private homes, report the abuse to Adult Protective Services (APS) in your county (call 1-800-510-2020).
  • For abuse in long-term care facilities, call your local long-term care ombudsman (call 1-800-231-4024 to find the right one).

Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes

It is extremely important to note that in the case of sexual abuse of the elderly, it is not merely the ability of a person to voice opposition to sexual advances that is necessary to bring charges. If a person does not have the mental capabilities to consent to sexual contact, any sexual contact between the incapable person and another is sufficient for a charge of sexual abuse. A person must have the ability to consent to sexual contact for it to be permissible.

Sexual Assault Case Examples

While it is important to bring offenders to justice for perpetrating acts of elderly abuse, one case describes perfectly why one should obtain legal assistance when such an event occurs. In this case an 89-year-old woman and was raped by her 30-year-old nursing assistant in Minnesota.

Doubting Elderly Victims of Abuse

While the court sentenced the abuser to four years in prison, the 89-year old woman received no counseling or assistance after reporting the sexual assault. The police also confined her to the mental health unit of a hospital for three days subsequent to the attack. According to the article, the nursing home seemed to doubt her statements because of the early signs of dementia that she had shown. Because elderly people in nursing homes may suffer from mental deficiencies, their claims and statement may be less likely to be believed. Every year, elderly people in nursing home are victims of abuse. If you know someone who claims to be the victim of such abuse, it is imperative that you contact a legal representative to assure both the prosecution for the crime and the proper counseling and assistance for recovery from such a terrible event.

Civil Damages

While one is able to witness the prosecution of the criminal, this article also shows that you or your loved ones may be able to receive civil damages as well. In this case, the woman’s family decided to sue the nursing home for the actions of the nursing assistant. This comes from the principle of vicarious liability. In this case, a court could reasonably impute liability to the nursing home if they believed that the nursing home had improperly monitored the nursing assistant or had an obligation do so and neglected that responsibility.

Consult an elder abuse lawyer

After your loved one is out of immediate danger and has received proper medical attention, contact an elder abuse attorney. An experienced attorney can help prevent further abuse and discern whether the elder may be entitled to financial damages for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and/or punitive damages.

The California elder abuse lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP are dedicated advocates of elderly victims who have suffered sexual abuse in nursing homes, institutions and other long-term care facilities throughout California. Call The Appel Law Firm at 925-938-2000 for a free consultation