Unfortunately, elderly nursing home residents are easy prey for sexual predators because they are often weak and defenseless. They may also fall victim to sexual abuse because they had a stroke or other medical condition that caused them to lose their speech or motor skills. When a nursing home resident is weak and unable to resist or unable to speak, the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual abuse increases. The most recent statistics from the United States Administration on Aging reveal that there were 548 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes between October 1, 1995 and September 30, 1996.
Sexual abuse is any form of nonconsensual sexual contact, including unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, sodomy, sexual coercion, sexually-explicit photographing, and sexual harassment. It would include situations where the nursing home resident was forced, coerced, tricked, or manipulated into unwanted sexual contact and where the nursing home resident is too ill, frail, or mentally incapacitated to give consent. A nursing home resident can be sexually abused by a nursing home staff member, another resident, a stranger, or a family member in a variety of situations, including :
Sexual abuse by a nursing home staff member
Sexual abuse of a nursing home resident by a staff member often occurs because the nursing home fails to conduct background investigations of potential employees. Many staff members, particularly nurse’s aides, are minimum-wage employees who go from one job to the next. Nurse’s aides also have the most contact with nursing home residents and are responsible for a variety of tasks, including helping residents bathe, dress, and toilet, which may create the opportunity for sexual abuse. Some of these aides may have been terminated from previous jobs because they abused a nursing home resident at another facility and some may have criminal records.
When a nursing home fails to properly screen an employee who has a history of sexual abuse and that employee sexually abuses a resident, the nursing home can be liable for negligence . Sexual abuse by a staff member can also occur because the nursing home fails to properly supervise employees. This may result from understaffing or poor training. When a nursing home fails to properly supervise employees or properly train employees on how to spot sexual abuse and sexual abuse occurs, the nursing home can be liable for negligence.
Sexual abuse by another resident
Oftentimes, nursing homes are co-ed. In such settings, normal male-female relationships are bound to develop. Unfortunately, however, co-ed settings in nursing homes can give rise to the sexual abuse of one resident by another. Those residents who are weak and unable to resist or unable to speak may be an easy target for sexual abuse by another resident who knows of the potential victim’s mental or physical challenges. Sexual abuse by another resident may occur because the nursing home fails to properly supervise residents. This can result from understaffing or poor training. When a nursing home fails to properly supervise residents and properly train employees on how to spot sexual abuse by residents and sexual abuse occurs, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.
Sexual abuse by a stranger
Sexual abuse by a stranger often occurs because the nursing home lacks adequate security which allows strangers to enter the facility. Strangers can also enter the facility when nursing home employees step outside to take a break or smoke and negligently fail to lock the door when they re-enter. If a nursing home resident is sexually abused by a stranger who gains access to the facility under these circumstances, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.
Sexual abuse by a family member
When a person is placed in a nursing home, the resident’s spouse may miss the relationship the two shared when they were at home. When the resident’s mental or physical condition prohibits consensual sexual relations between spouses, the sexual act may rise to the level of sexual abuse. In these situations, nursing home staff members may fail to report the incident because of the legal relationship between the couple, therefore, and permit the abuse to continue. Under these circumstances, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.