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Elder Sexual Abuse

One of the most horrible types of abuse is elder sexual abuse. Elder abuse occurs when caregivers or others violate the trust they were given to care for an elderly person and taking advantage of that person sexually. Abusers target elderly people who they believe are vulnerable and easy targets. They also abuse the elderly because they believe they will not be punished if they abuse senior citizens who are isolated from family or easily confused. Although elder sexual abuse can occur anywhere, it tragically occurs most often in nursing homes. These are incredibly immoral and illegal actions, and both families and caregivers need to recognize the signs of this type of abuse.

Important Facts about Elder Sexual Abuse:

  • 70% of reported abuse occurs in nursing homes
  • Only 30% of victims of elder sexual abuse report it to authorities
  • The abuser is the primary caregiver 81% of the time
  • Elderly women are six times more likely than men to be sexually abused

What Is Elder Sexual Abuse?

Elder sexual abuse is the initiation of physical or sexual contact with an elderly person, when that contact is nonconsensual or unwanted. This abuse also includes making contact with an elderly person who is confused or unable to give consent. Whether or not the contact is significant or minor, if it is sexual in nature and nonconsensual, it is sexual abuse. Both rape of an elderly person and unwanted touching can count as elderly sexual abuse. Some types of elder sexual abuse include:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Sexual assault and battery
  • Sexual photography
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault and battery
  • Forced nudity

Who Is Most at Risk of Elder Sexual Abuse?

In most cases, elder sexual abuse occurs when the potential abuser feels like he can inflict abuse without any punishments or repercussions. For that reason, those who are most at risk are the elderly patients who are already the most vulnerable.

Women are traditionally seen as weaker than men and less able to protect themselves. Elderly women are much more likely than elderly men to suffer from sexual abuse. Age is also a factor, and nursing home residents who are older are at greater risk of abuse.

One of the most egregious forms of elderly sexual abuse is the sexual abuse committed to patients who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of memory impairment. Because these patients are often confused, the abuser believes that no one will believe their complaints, therefor feeling more confident that they can abuse them without repercussions. Nursing home residents with dementia and other issues are at increased risk of sexual abuse.

Other Risk Factors for Sexual Abuse:

  • Social isolation from family and others
  • Neglect from caregiver and family
  • Physical disability

What Are Signs of Elder Sexual Abuse?

If an elderly person is being taken advantage of sexually it is possible that there will be physical evidence of this abuse. It is very important that family members and caregivers who believe their loved one is a victim to pay close attention to evidence. This is because it is very difficult to prosecute an abuser if there is a lack of sufficient physical evidence.

There are also psychological signs of abuse that should be carefully looked for. If the elderly person is exhibiting any of the following signs it is important to contact authorities.

Signs of Psychological abuse include:

  • Unexplained STDs and infections
  • Bruises in genital areas, thighs, and breasts
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Clothing that has been torn, stained, or covered in blood
  • Increased difficulty walking or sitting
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Anxiety or excessive fear around caregiver
  • Agitation and abrupt change in mood


“Elder sexual abuse.” Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. PCAR – Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.pcar.org/elder-sexual-abuse

“Sexual Abuse.” National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2013.http://www.preventelderabuse.org/elderabuse/s_abuse.html

United States. Department of Aging. Addressing Elder Sexual Abuse: Developing a Community Response. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2007. Web. http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=616049&mode=2

United States. National Institute of Justice. Sexual Abuse of the Elderly. Office of Justice Programs, 2007. Web.http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/elder-abuse/sexual-abuse.htm


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