Senior Sexual Assault
Written by NHAbuseGuide on July 1, 2015
The Realities of Senior Sexual Assault
We think that making the choice to put an elderly loved one into long-term care or a nursing home is one that guarantees their safety. While we all accept that some accidents can occur (after all, the statistics relating to falls and fall injuries show how hard it can be to prevent some incidents), we never expect to hear that a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, this is precisely the news that the family of an 86-year-old resident of a North Carolina nursing home received in May of 2015. The woman had been admitted to the local hospital on a Thursday, and by Monday she had died. Initial reports indicate that it was due to injuries consistent with sexual assault that led to her admission in the first place.
Word of this caused ripples of horror and shock throughout the community, but also to the world in general. However, as one reporter noted, it is not as uncommon as we might think. Citing NursingHomeAbuseGuide.com, the reporter explained, “83.3% of elder sexual abuse victims live in nursing homes or adult care facilities,” and in more than 80% of such cases, the abuser is the individual’s caregiver.
Why Is This Unknown?
Many people are astonished at the basic figures, but things become even more disturbing when a closer look is taken. At Mecasa.org, they explain that sexual violence against the elderly is “difficult to quantify,” and they go on to explain that there are specific reasons that this is so:
- Seniors do not often report the abuse or assault.
- Victims may require specialized assistance unavailable to them.
- Older adults rely heavily on care providers – even if they are the individuals perpetrating the assaults.
- Victims may be afraid to report the caregiver, particularly if they are a family member or if they fear losing assistance.
- Victims are often quiet because they are aware of the societal trend to disbelieve the elderly or think that a lack of mental competency has led to claims of sexual abuse.
Discovering that, for every case reported, roughly five more go unreported makes it even more apparent that victims feel more threatened by a loss of care than the effects of the abuse.
However, there are huge repercussions from this – apart from the physical harm. For example, according to the National Institute for Justice, many elderly sexual assault victims are not evaluated. Many perpetrators will not even face charges unless there are physical signs of the trauma caused, and the older the victim the less likely the offender is of being convicted.
Also, the NIJ pointed out that victims in assisted living or nursing homes are less likely to see the perpetrators punished then seniors or disabled people living independently.
The Warning Signs
How can you know if a loved one in a nursing home or nursing care is being subjected to sexual abuse? There are many warning signs, both physical and behavioral, including:
- Pelvic injury
- STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Genital or anal pain
- Bleeding or blood-stained undergarments
- Extreme agitation
- Problems sitting and walking
- Panic attacks
- Inappropriate or unusual sexual behaviors
- Speaking of or attempting suicide
If you fear that your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or sexual abuse, do not hesitate to seek help. Speak with the staff, contact an attorney, and do not hesitate to go directly to the administration of the nursing home and report your concerns immediately. It should not take injury or death to make this issue a headline, and you can prevent it from happening by remaining aware.
Mecasa.org. Sexual Violences…http://www.mecasa.org/index.php/special-projects/older-adults
NIJ.gov. Sexual Abuse…http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/elder-abuse/pages/sexual-abuse.aspx
NursinHomeAbuseGuide.com. Sexual Abuse…http://nursinghomeabuseguide.com/elder-abuse/sexual-abuse/