Sexual assault in nursing homes is a terrifying reality for a growing number of elderly nursing home residents. In recent years, more than 1,000 nursing home facilities in the United States have been cited for mishandling investigations or failing to prevent sexual assaults on people in their care.
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Perpetrators of Sexual Assualt
Since 2000, more than 16,000 reports have been filed alleging sexual assault in nursing home and assisted living facilities. Over half of these sexual assaults on seniors were alleged to have been perpetrated by individuals employed by the facility.
In 2013, the State of Illinois recorded 386 allegations of sexual assault on nursing home residents. 201 of these assaults were perpetrated by caregivers, including nursing home staff. However, only 59 of these investigations uncovered sufficient evidence for them to be considered substantiated.
Signs of Senior Sexual Assault
Shame, fear, and embarrassment prevent many seniors from discussing sexual assault with their friends and family. As such, it’s important to recognize the signs of sexual assault so that friends and family can take the appropriate steps to protect them.
Physical signs of abuse include:
- Contraction of a Sexually Transmitted Disease
- Bruises located on the thighs or within the genital area
- Bloody, torn, or stained underwear
- Scratches, cuts, torn fingernails, and other signs of struggle
- Pelvic injuries including broken or fractured bones
Even if physical signs of abuse are absent, the majority of sexual assault survivors will exhibit emotional changes and changes in behavior that can include:
- Withdrawal at social functions and avoidance of social interactions
- Changes in eating habits, sleep patterns, etc.
- Panic attacks
- Suicide attempts
Preserving Evidence of Sexual Assault
Of the more than 300 cases of sexual assault reported in Illinois in 2013, only 59 of these investigations uncovered sufficient evidence for the allegations to be considered substantiated. It is a shocking statistic that highlights the need for families to work with police and a Lake County nursing home abuse lawyer to gather and preserve evidence.
When sexual assault is suspected, a forensic medical exam should be conducted within 5 days of the assault. Elderly survivors of sexual assault should also be assisted with preserving clothing and linens, taking photographs of injuries and the site of the assault, and gathering testimony from witnesses. This documentation is crucial for the pursuit of both criminal and civil penalties.