Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault in a Nursing Home
Learn how sexual abuse or sexual assault in a nursing home can occur, what situations can make a resident more vulnerable, and what security issues to be aware of.
Sexual assaults can and do happen in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. A sexual assault occurs when the patient takes part in a sexual act without giving their consent. Keep in mind that the patient must have the mental capacity to make an informed decision about a sexual act.
Nursing home patients, regrettably, often provide a sex abuser a prime target for this crime. These victims often suffer from the inability to properly communicate to others what is actually happening to them. Having dementia is a prime example of how a patient could be repeatedly taken advantage of and not have the ability to report this type of incident. Of course force could be used in conjunction with the event, but it could also be completed under the threat of the denial of food, water, or even their required prescription medication.
Some care and medical procedures require baring of the body and touching of sensitive areas. This opens the opportunity for going “too far” and crossing over to abuse. Further compounding this problem is that police investigators are not often trained in how to conduct a proper interview with an ill, elderly person suffering from diverse medical issues. This is a highly specialized area that may not often come up in the course of their work. In addition, something as simple as documenting bruises is not quite as straightforward as it seems. A study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, documented the progression of accidental bruises found on elderly patients. They found that color is not a good indicator of the age of the bruise and that some medications affect the coloring. Investigators are taught about the general color progression of bruises as they age, however most often they would not be told how medications for geriatric patients might change those colors.
A lack of security in the nursing home or assisted living facility can also provide an opportunity for a stranger to gain access to the building and commit this type of crime. This is why it is essential that personnel monitor whether exterior doors are locked, and require visitors to sign a log to enter.
Even spouses can be involved in sexual abuse. Remember that the patient must have the capacity to make an informed decision concerning sexual contact. Advanced Alzheimer’s patients may not recognize their spouse and be terrified that a “stranger” is touching them.
If other patients have psychiatric issues, it is the nursing home’s responsibility to ensure that they have no chance to prey on other residents. They might even have a history, unbeknownst to you of course, of prior sexual assaults or sexual violence.
It is the duty and responsibility of the nursing home staff to monitor such activities to prevent unwanted sexual relations.
Mosqueda, L., K. Burnight, and S. Liao, Bruising in the Geriatric Population,final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: June 2006 (NCJ 214649), available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/214649.pdf.