Sexual Assault In Nursing Homes And Assisted Living Facilities – Important Steps And Legal Options
When our loved ones age and begin to lose their independence, we turn to nursing homes and assisted living facilities and trust them with our relatives’ care. This is a stressful process for those moving into a nursing home and their families back home, but the transition usually turns out well.
Unfortunately, in some cases, a nursing home stay can become a nightmare for a resident that is subjected to some form of abuse. Over 10,000 cases of nursing home abuse and neglect occur each year in the United States, and about 2% of these cases involve sexual abuse against nursing home residents. Women make up about 65% of the nursing home population and are more likely to be victimized by sexual abuse in nursing homes. Those with dementia also face higher rates of sexual abuse due to their impaired memory and communication skills.
This type of abuse, shocking and unimaginable as it is, happens with a disturbing enough frequency that family members must be vigilant against sexual abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in a Nursing Home Setting
Signs for family members, residents, and staff alike to look out for include:
- Unexplained bruising around inner thighs, genital areas, and breasts
- Unexplained infections or sexually transmitted diseases
- Unexplained pain, bleeding, or irritation in genital areas
- Stained, torn, or bloody clothing
Other non-physical signs of sexual abuse can include:
- Social withdrawal
- Heightened agitation
- Panic attacks or PTSD symptoms
- Unexplained changes of behavior including fear of a certain person, fear of the dark, or difficulties sleeping
While some of these warning signs may have other sensible explanations, they warrant further attention and reporting if needed.
What to Do if You Suspect Sexual Abuse in a Nursing Home
The first thing you should do is document the suspected abuse. Record as much detail as possible when you see it – this may include photo or video evidence. Thanks to smartphones, these types of evidence are easier to document as soon as we see something.
The next step is to report the suspected incident to law enforcement and to Adult Protective Services for Tennessee (at 1-888-APS-TENN or 1-888-277-8366). These officials stand ready to help and can give guidance on what you can do and what additional information they may need. If the abuse allegations are substantiated, they will likely refer the matter to local prosecutors for potential criminal action.
Further, you will need to seek appropriate medical care or referral to a doctor that can treat any issues that you’ve noticed for your loved one. It helps to have an independent medical opinion to report the incident to proper authorities and for any potential lawsuit.
When to Call an Attorney to Discuss a Potential Sexual Abuse Claim
If sexual abuse occurred in a nursing home setting, that facility can be held responsible in a court of law for any action (or inaction) that led to the abuse. You and your family member may be entitled to appropriate financial compensation in addition to a finding of civil liability on the facility’s part.
The Knoxville, Tennessee Nursing Home Litigation Attorneys at Brezina Law, PLLC, Can Help if Your Loved One Suffered Sexual Abuse at a Nursing Home
If you suspect or have already confirmed sexual abuse of a loved one at a nursing home facility, your family member has important legal rights. At the same time, you and your family will have every right to be upset, and we can help you work through the process and navigate the legal system as well. Our Knoxville nursing home malpractice attorneys at Brezina Law, PLLC, will carefully review the situation and determine the appropriate legal action necessary for potential recovery.