Sexual assaults can happen to anyone, however elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to these types of attacks.
Elder sexual assault is just one part of the overall mistreatment of elderly individuals, which happens more frequently than most people realize.
There are many different forms of sexual abuse, just like there are many different forms of abuse in general perpetrated against seniors.
Learning about elder sexual assault will arm you with the information needed to protect yourself and your loved ones should this type of elder abuse occur.
What is Elder Sexual Assault?
Elder sexual assault is an action against an elderly individual that is sexual in origin and is unwanted.
Elder sexual assault also includes sexual contact with an elderly person who cannot consent or communicate their disproval of the behavior, often in cases involving dementia or mental illness.
What Are the Causes of Elder Sexual Assault?
Many elderly sexual assault cases happen for the same reasons that it happens to younger people.
It usually occurs between strangers or acquaintances when a sexual predator sexually violates another individual—or in an established relationship where one partner forces a sexual act upon the other partner against their will.
Though there are many things in common between general sexual assault and elder sexual assault, there are some aspects that are unique when it comes to the sexual assault of a senior.
First, elder sexual assault targets one of the most vulnerable populations. Many elderly victims of sexual assault have dementia or other medical conditions that cause them to be more vulnerable than the average person.
Additionally, due to dementia or other medical conditions, they may not be able to communicate that they have been a victim of sexual assault.
Victims that are believed to remain silent about the abuse may be more likely targets for the perpetrators.
What Are the Causes of Elderly Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities?
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are some of the most common locations where elderly sexual assaults occur.
One of the causes of this type of abuse in these facilities is inadequate staffing. If there are not enough staff members to properly care for the residents, problems often occur.
According to the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys, approximately 90% of the nursing homes in the United States have staff levels that are considered too low to provide adequate care. In fact, just one nurse’s aide may be assigned to take care of 30 different residents.
The recommendation of nurse’s aides to residents is just one nurse’s aide for every three patients. This recommendation is widely ignored throughout the country, and nurse’s aides often are assigned anywhere from 15 to 30 different residents.
Poor staff training is also another contributing cause to instances of elderly sexual assault in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If the staff is not properly trained to perform their job duties, sexual assaults and other injuries can occur to the residents.
Signs and Indicators of Abuse
If you are concerned that a loved one may be a victim of elderly sexual assault, there are some signs and indicators of this abuse that you can watch out for. These signs include:
- Pelvic injuries
- Trouble sitting or walking
- Developing a sexually transmitted disease
- Bleeding or irritation in the genital area
- Torn underwear or clothing
- Signs of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic attacks
- Mood changes, such as signs of depression or aggression
- Emotional or social withdrawal from others
- Lack of interest in things and activities that were formerly enjoyed
- Engaging in unusual, aggressive, or inappropriate sexual activities
- Self-harm and suicide attempts
If you notice any of the above signs or indicators of elderly abuse, it is crucial to seek help for your loved one right away.
Even if you do not currently suspect that elderly sexual assault is happening to your loved one, becoming aware of the signs and indicators of this type of abuse can help you to act quickly in the event that it does occur.
Sexual Abuse Statistics
Research studies conducted by the National Institute of Justice have found that the oldest victims of elder abuse were the least likely to assist in the conviction of an adult sexual offender who perpetrated a sexual abuse crime against them.
The same study also found that victims of elder sexual abuse tend to be less likely to be believed, particularly those that did not have visible signs of bodily trauma.
The sexual abuse victims who lived in nursing home facilities were the group least able to obtain a conviction for the crimes perpetrated against them.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) is an organization that helps to educate the public by conducting detailed research studies on the issue of elderly sexual abuse.
PCAR studies have found that women are six times more likely to be elder sexual abuse victims.
This organization also found through these studies that approximately 80% of elder sexual abuse cases involve a caregiver as the perpetrator of the crime.
Additionally, PCAR’s studies have concluded that there is a concerning lack of reporting by elderly sexual abuse victims over the age of 65—currently, only about 30% of victims in this age group report these crimes to the authorities.
PCAR has also found that nearly 83% of all of the elder sexual abuse victims live in a nursing home or other type of institutional care center.
Who Are the Perpetrators?
There is a limited amount of research available on the topic of elder sexual abuse and the perpetrators of this abuse. One of the main reasons for this lack of available research is that many elderly sexual assault victims are unable to communicate properly regarding what happened and identifying who did it.
However, we do know that some common perpetrators of elder sexual assault include nursing home assistants and staff, family members, live-in nursing aids, friends, and other care providers who are left alone to take care of the elderly person.
While caregivers and others in similar roles are the most common perpetrators of elderly sexual assault, there is another less common category of perpetrators. This category involves patient-to-patient elder sexual assault and abuse.
Patient-to-patient elder sexual assault can happen in nursing homes, as well as other institutional settings.
Nursing home residents may suffer from dementia or other medical conditions that can affect their actions.
Without proper supervision in nursing homes and assisted living facilities where patients are living closely together, instances of patient-to-patient sexual assault may occur.
How Can Sexual Assaults Be Prevented Against the Elderly?
In nursing homes and assisted living facilities, elder sexual assaults, and other forms of elder abuse could be prevented by implementing additional rules and regulations.
Revising regulations and procedures so that nursing homes are properly staffed, with the appropriate ratio of staff members to patients, will also go a long way toward preventing sexual assaults.
Another way to prevent elder sexual assaults in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is to make sure that the staff is properly trained in all aspects of their job; especially with their duties associated with patient care.
Increasing awareness and education about elder sexual assaults and other forms of elder abuse is one of the best ways to help prevent instances of abuse.
What to Do If You Suspect A Loved One is a Victim of Assault?
If you suspect that someone you care about is a victim of sexual assault, it is vital to take action right away.
Unfortunately, older adults can become isolated from society, and without frequent visits from friends and family, abuse cases can go unnoticed for a long period of time.
After comforting your loved one, you can take steps to report the sexual assault:
- You can call the National Adult Protective Services Association.
- You can call the National Center on Elder Abuse and make a formal report of the incident or incidents.
- You can contact an attorney that specializes in elder abuse to find out if you have a case and bring the abuser(s) to justice.
If the abuse has occurred on more than one occasion, be sure to keep a record of what you learned, including pictures if possible, so that you can make a complete report including each incident.
Remember that the more information that you can provide, the better the chances of your elderly loved one getting the help that they need.
Many seniors do not want to report the abuse they have suffered, even if they can. They may fear retaliation from their abuser, or in other cases, they may feel that having a caretaker, even an abusive one, is better than the alternative of no caretaker or having to leave their home or facility.
Keep in mind that you should not confront the abuser yourself one-on-one. Taking action this way can put the elderly individual in more danger unless you have their permission and are able to immediately help them move to a safe location with alternative care.
This is also a situation in which there is strength in numbers. If there are other friends and family who share your concerns, it may be beneficial to work together to handle the situation.
Remember, the earlier you intervene in a scenario involving elder assault, or elder abuse in any form, the better the outcome will be for everyone.
How Can an Elder Sexual Assault Lawyer Help?
Many sexual assault cases can be attributed to the negligence of a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Hiring an elder sexual assault attorney who has experience successfully handling elder sexual assault cases can help you or your loved one recover compensation for the injuries that were suffered.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities may be legally responsible for instances of abuse and neglect that occur in their facilities.
These cases involve negligence on the part of the nursing home or assisted living facility in some form. This may include negligent hiring practices, insufficient staff training, and allowing the residences to be understaffed. These negligent practices contribute to substandard care.
Many injuries suffered by residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities can be attributed to their negligence in some way.
The victim in an elder sexual abuse case is typically entitled to compensation for the damages that they suffered resulting from their injuries. Their damages may include compensation for pain and suffering, as well as money to pay necessary and related medical bills. In some particularly severe cases, punitive damages may also be an option.
Every case is different, with a unique set of facts, so your attorney will be able to evaluate your case individually and give you a better idea of what you can expect if you decide to move forward with your case against a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
Your attorney will help you navigate the legal aspects of the case, every step of the way.
Hiring an Elder Abuse Attorney
If you decide to move forward with pursuing a claim for compensation for elder sexual assault or other forms of abuse and neglect, it is crucial that you choose an attorney experienced in this area of law.
Nursing home abuse and neglect cases can be complex, so it is essential that you have an attorney who knows how to handle these types of cases.
While some cases settle prior to trial, other cases do proceed to trial—so you will want to hire an elder sexual assault attorney with courtroom experience who you can trust to represent you every step of the way.
The Peck Law Group knows what it takes to fight for your legal rights. Our attorneys have many years of experience handling cases involving elder sexual assault and other types of elder abuse and neglect. We provide aggressive and passionate representation for nursing home abuse and negligence victims.
Located in California, The Peck Law Group has offices throughout the state and can work with you on your case no matter where you are, including (but not limited to) Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Fresno, Riverside, Palms Springs, Orange County, San Francisco and San Diego.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of elder sexual assault time is of the essence. Speak to an attorney today for a free consultation by calling 866-999-9085 so that we can get started fighting for your legal rights.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.