Nursing Home Sexual Abuse and Assault
If you suspect or know your loved one has been sexually abused in a nursing home, contact the nursing home litigation attorneys at Levin & Perconti as soon as possible for a free case review to determine your next steps and eligibility for compensation. Remember, while civil remedies are available, sexual abuse is a crime. You should report nursing home sexual abuse to your local law enforcement authorities, your state’s ombudsman program, and any other relevant investigative agencies to hold the perpetrator accountable and protect your loved one and other older adults or nursing home residents from future harm.What Is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse or sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act that’s carried out with force, threats, manipulation, or preying on a victim’s vulnerability. Perpetrators of sexual abuse often take advantage of their victims’ inability to give consent. Sexual abuse acts include:
- Unwanted intimate touching, especially touching the breasts or genital area
- Penetrating the vagina, or oral or anal sex (rape)
- Forced nudity
- Forced viewing of pornographic materials
- Forced observation of masturbation
- Recording videos or taking pictures of residents while they’re undressing or bathing, etc.
Residents who depend on nursing home staff to help them regularly with daily functions are most vulnerable to all forms of abuse in nursing homes. These residents may be older, have cognitive impairments, suffer from mental illness, or have a physical disability that socially isolates them and keeps them dependent on others for routine and advanced care.
Cognitive decline affects more than 80% of nursing home residents, according to a medical publication from 2017, with dementia being the leading factor contributing to impairment. Other causes include depression, delirium, and certain immune disorders. Those who can’t speak up for themselves and might come off as aggressive or having delusions due to illness will be less likely to get the help they need following an incident of sexual or other abuse, making them seemingly easy targets for people intending to cause harm.
Women and former sexual abuse or sexual assault victims are also at an increased risk for nursing home sexual abuse.Signs of Sexual Abuse in Your Loved One
Signs of sexual abuse may present physically or psychologically. If the resident’s demeanor or behavior suddenly changes or worsens, it’s usually a sign that something's not right. Also, residents might exhibit unusual behaviors around their abuser. They may become tense, argumentative, aggressive, anxious, or fearful. If your loved one reports that they’ve been sexually abused, believe them, and report the abuse immediately.
Physical signs of sexual abuse in nursing home residents might include:
- Bruising on the inner thighs, genital area, or breasts
- Unexplained genital infections, including recurring or persistent yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, pain, or irritation
- Difficulty sitting or walking that wasn’t apparent before
- Underclothing or bedding that is torn, stained, or bloodied
- Unexplained weight loss
Physical signs aren’t the only indicator of sexual abuse in an older person. Often, physical symptoms are not obvious. In this instance, you’ll need to rely on non-physical, behavioral, or psychological signs. These include:
- Extreme agitation, distress, or just generally being “on edge”
- Withdrawal or isolation (lack of socialization)
- Panic attacks or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- New or worsening depression
- Suicidal thoughts, comments, or attempts
- Sudden or unexplained changes in behavior, such as fear, avoidance of certain places or people, nightmares or insomnia, or a new dependence on others
If nursing home sexual abuse is suspected or after it occurs, the most important thing is to ensure the safety of the resident. The nursing home has a legal obligation to prevent further abuse. Next, the nursing home is required to report the abuse. You can also report the abuse and seek a full medical evaluation for your loved one.
You can report nursing home sexual abuse to the following:
- Nursing home administrator and anyone in charge of overseeing the staff and residents when the abuse happened
- Your local police department. If the abuse just happened, have your loved one avoid bathing, urinating, brushing their teeth, changing their clothing, or cleaning their bedding before law enforcement has investigated.
- State licensing and certification agency
- Adult Protective Services (APS) in your area
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in your area
Additional helpful resources include:
- RAINN: Get 24/7 help by calling 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or accessing the live chat
- National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
- National Center on Elder Abuse
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Elder Abuse Guide for Law Enforcement (EAGLE)
Federal law states that all nursing home residents have a right to be free from abuse, neglect, and other harms. State laws might also apply, but the national regulations create a duty for nursing homes to ensure that they have policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse and handle it appropriately and swiftly when it occurs, alerting local law enforcement and other agencies to any abuse allegations. If a nursing home fails to meet its legal obligations to a nursing home resident, resulting in sexual abuse or other harm to that resident, it may be liable for any injuries and losses.
The law states, in part, that:
- The facility must not employ individuals found guilty of abuse, neglect, exploitation, misappropriation of property, or mistreatment, or who have a finding of the same entered into the state nurse aide registry, or who have a disciplinary action in effect against their professional license by a state licensure body with the same findings. In addition, every long-term residential care facility has a duty to protect residents from other residents.
- The facility must develop and implement written policies and procedures that prohibit and prevent abuse and the other harms mentioned above and investigate any allegations. Included in this provision as requirements are training, coordination, and investigating and reporting of crimes.
- The facility must ensure prompt reporting of all allegations (within not more than two hours) and provide evidence of an investigation into the same. Additionally, they must take action to prevent further abuse or harm.
If a facility fails to fulfill its obligations under any other part of state or federal nursing home laws, it may be liable for your loved one’s abuse. It’s important to speak with a nursing home litigation attorney who has superior knowledge of the relevant laws, such as the nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Levin & Perconti, to ensure that the appropriate parties are held responsible and you receive maximum compensation for your losses.Available Damages for Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
In a civil case for nursing home abuse, you may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include tangible financial losses that are easy to calculate, such as medical expenses, stolen money, therapy and rehabilitation costs, rehoming costs, etc. Non-economic damages are more challenging to determine or assign a dollar value to because they involve the victim’s pain and suffering and other non-tangible effects of the harm caused by the defendant.
A knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer can adequately assess your case and estimate fair compensation based on the specific facts of your circumstance. The nursing home litigation attorneys at Levin & Perconti have the requisite expertise and experience to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.
Some cases warrant punitive damages when the defendant’s actions are grossly negligent, reckless, or intentional, with a wanton disregard for the victim’s rights or well-being. Courts have discretion to apply these damages on a case-by-case basis. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoers and prevent future wrong acts by the defendant and others similarly situated. While these damages are not awarded for the purpose of compensating the plaintiff or harmed individual, the amount of such can be quite significant.Why Should I Hire Levin & Perconti to Handle My Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case?
The attorneys at Levin & Perconti are renowned for their knowledge and expertise in nursing home litigation. The firm’s team of nationally recognized lawyers has recovered over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients. We never settle for less than full compensation, resulting in a number of record results.
We strongly believe in holding at-fault parties responsible for heinous acts performed against one of our most vulnerable populations and making them pay. Some of our more notable victories include:
- $4.1M jury record-breaking verdict awarded on behalf of an 85-year-old woman who was injured in a nursing home due to mismanagement of her medications
- $2.9M record nursing home jury verdict against a Homewood nursing home responsible for the death of a 57-year-old resident who suffocated due to negligent care of her tracheostomy tube
- $2.8M record nursing home settlement against a Hillside nursing home and physician for a 59-year-old resident who suffered bedsores so severe it took four years to heal
- $2.7M jury verdict for the estate of a 67-year-old man who died after experiencing complications from a fall at Southpoint Nursing Home in Chicago
- $410,000 settlement for a resident who suffered from dementia and was physically and sexually assaulted on one or more occasions by another resident of the defendant facility.
If your loved one suffered sexual abuse or sexual assault in a nursing home, contact Levin & Perconti today for a free consultation.Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home sexual abuse is no small matter. When it happens to you or your loved one, it can be an overwhelming and life-changing experience. You will likely have many questions as you attempt to handle the fallout and safeguard your family member. The lawyers at Levin & Perconti are here to help alleviate the legal and financial burdens of your circumstance. If you have questions or concerns, we will provide you with answers and solutions to your specific situation so that you know how to proceed.What Are Some Examples of How Sexual Abuse Happens in Nursing Homes?
Whether the perpetrator is known to the victim or not, the predator is attempting to exert control over a member of a vulnerable population, resulting in an egregious violation and the performance of acts against the victim’s will.
The nature of dementia can create situations where sexual abuse by staff members or patient-on-patient assaults are likely to occur. Residents with dementia might be unable to communicate what happened to them, making them a likely target for predators who think they’ll be able to “get away with it.”
Additionally, patients with Alzheimer's may have heightened sexual behaviors due to the effect of the medical condition on their brains. Nursing homes are required to take extra steps to protect these patients and patients around them.
Regardless of the reasoning behind elder sexual abuse in nursing homes, it should not be happening, and nursing homes are required to make sure it doesn’t.What Are the Long-Term Effects of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse?
Elder abuse, including sexual abuse, can lead to early death, according to the National Institute on Aging. The stress and trauma to the victim not only harm the older adult physically, but also psychologically, socially, and financially. Persistent depression and fear are common results of nursing home abuse, making it difficult for the injured resident to fully heal.
Medical and therapeutic interventions could be helpful to restoring your loved one’s health and confidence after sexual abuse occurs. Speaking with a nursing home litigation attorney about your eligibility for compensation could help situate you and your loved one in a positive financial position to get the best help available to assist in recovery.How Can I Help Protect My Loved One From Nursing Home Abuse?
Under the law, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to protect residents from sexual abuse.
The nursing home and any staff members engaging in wrong, neglectful, or negligent behaviors are solely responsible for any harm to the residents in their care. Therefore, if your loved one suffers nursing home abuse, you are not at fault for what happened.
With that said, it’s understandable for you to be concerned about possible abuse and want to gather information and insight to potentially mitigate any risks or harm to your loved one. Here are some ways you can help:
- Stay in touch with your loved one
- Cultivate a strong support network for them
- Watch for signs of abuse or neglect
- Speak up about any suspicions or concerns you may have
Ultimately, nursing home sexual abuse can happen to any resident at any time, whether you do the above or not. So, if it happens, know that you aren’t to blame. Instead, focus your attention on holding the nursing home accountable and getting your loved one the help they need.How Much Will It Cost Me to Hire a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?
Our attorneys are paid by a contingency fee, which means that you do not have to pay them any money to investigate or prosecute your case until the case resolves. At that time, the fees are a set percentage of the final compensation package.