Nursing Home Sexual Assault: Legal Rights & Compensation
Sexual assault in nursing homes is a tragic reality that is often overlooked or ignored. Unfortunately, vulnerable patients are at risk of exploitation due to the large age gap between them and the staff members, as well as their physical or emotional disabilities.
Nursing home staff are obligated to protect their elderly patients from any form of abuse or neglect. When sexual abuse occurs, it’s not only the injured resident who suffers but also their family and friends.
Has a beloved family member been a victim of sexual assault while under the care of a caregiving home? The personal injury lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can seek justice to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions.
Our nursing home abuse attorneys have a track record of success in cases involving sexual allegations in caregiving homes, assisted living centers, and community living (group) homes. Contact us at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.
Sexual Assault of a Loved One
Unfortunately, because it is understudied, sexual abuse among elderly residents is rarely understood or reported.
Many abuse victims suffer extensive medical conditions, including confusion, memory loss, dementia, and communication problems. Maltreatment and assault often go unreported, or is challenging to seek justice for the harm it inflicts.
The US House Government Reform Committee Special Investigations Division found nearly 9,000 elder abuse cases over a two-year period.
Many of these incidents involve sexual abuse of elderly people 60 and older. Elderly women are nearly six times more likely to be victims of elder sex abuse than men.
Many residents never report allegations of sex crimes when hurt by nurses, nursing assistants, employees, family members, or other residents and instead live with excessive fear it will happen again.
Definition of Sexual Abuse in Illinois Nursing Homes
Legally, a sexually abused nursing home resident any inappropriate, undesired sexual contact in a caregiving home.
Oftentimes, this type of mistreatment causes harm when the elderly individual is coerced, manipulated, or tricked into unwanted sexual contact.
Inappropriate contact with elderly individuals in a Chicago skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility could involve those who lack the ability or capacity to speak or communicate disapproval or non-consent.
Examples of Sexual Abuse of Nursing Home Residents
Any act where a nursing home patient is forced into a sexual act or pressured to expose their genitals can be considered sexual abuse.
While this type of home abuse and neglect case can take many forms, suspected abuse can include:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual violence
- Any inappropriate sexual activity
- Sexual harassment
- Fondling of genitals and breast
- Removing a resident's clothing
- Masturbation in front of nursing home residents
Sexual Perpetrators Living & Working in Chicago Skilled Nursing Facilities
Research on sexual assaults of the disabled and elderly is extremely limited. In addition, research becomes even more complicated because many victims of assault are incapable of communicating the maltreatment, due to dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or another cognitive condition.
Many instances involving sexually assaulted patients occur while in the care of others.
Sexual offenders often involve health providers entrusted to care for the elderly patient while alone, including:
- Live-in nurses
- Family members and friends
- Nursing home employees
In some incidents, a staff member who commits sexual abuse in a nursing home will face criminal charges for their action. However, cover-ups of sexual abuse in nursing centers are common.
Disturbingly, some episodes involve nursing home residents perpetuating the assault, especially when victims are too weak or unable to resist or communicate disapproval or non-consent.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the largest percentage of sexual abuse against elderly people in the United States (70.7 percent of cases) happened in skilled nursing facilities.
In addition, just over 12% of sexual assault survivors are abused at home and nearly 15% of victims were assaulted in the home of the sexual offender, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
In many nursing homes and assisted living facilities, staff members find continuous opportunities for physical and emotional abuse of home residents when bathing, dressing, or assisting an older adult to the bathroom.
There are specific signs/indicators when sexual abuse of an elderly individual occurs. Often, victims will exhibit the following signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes:In addition, just over 12% of sexual assault survivors are abused at home and nearly 15% of victims were assaulted in the home of the sexual offender, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
- Irritation, bleeding, or pain of the genital or anal area requiring medical care
- Newly emerging STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Pelvic injury
- Unexplained difficulties when walking or sitting
- Bruises around the genital area or the inner thighs
- Unexplained anal bleeding
- Stained, torn, or bloody undergarments
- Unexpected withdrawal from communicating and/or involvement in social interaction
- Extreme agitation
- Panic attack
- Emerging signs of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms
- Unusual, aggressive, or inappropriate sexual behavior
- Other forms of inappropriate behavior, including the appearance of a sex-role relationship between the suspect and the victim
- Self harm
While the above may not appear to be 'serious injuries' involving sexual abuse in nursing homes, they should not be minimized.
Many victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes suffer significant physical and social functioning declines that compromise their well-being.
Legal Responsibility of Illinois Nursing Homes To Protect Your Loved One
Sexual assault in a long-term care center can result from management not conducting proper background investigations of every potential employee.
When the nursing facility fails to properly screen any staff member with a history of sexual misconduct, they can be held liable for the abuse and negligence.
The individual's family may take legal action by initiating a lawsuit against the responsible party under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act to recover financial compensation.
Nursing Home Sexual Assault FAQs
Our personal injury law firm understands that some facility residents and family members may want to make sexual abuse allegations to hold the caregiving home accountable. An elder abuse attorney from our law firm has answered some common questions below.
Is sexual assault considered to be a form of elder abuse and neglect?
The National Institute on Aging recognizes sexual assault as elder abuse. Other types of nursing home abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial abuse.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to keep their residents safe and free from abuse or neglect.
What should you do if you suspect your loved one is a victim of elder sexual abuse in a nursing home?
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect in a skilled nursing or assisted living facility, you should immediately report the incident to law enforcement so the matter can be investigated and evidence can be gathered.
In the case of an abuse lawsuit, the evidence from a criminal investigation may be relevant to a civil claim against the caregivers at issue.
While the evidence from a criminal proceeding may not be admissible in a civil claim, your caregiving abuse attorney can use materials from the criminal investigation to assist with prosecuting a civil law abuse claim.
How long do I have to file a sex assault lawsuit against a nursing home?
All claims involving abuse in nursing homes must be filed within two years from the date of the incident.
However, circumstances can extend the statute of limitations for bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a facility, so it is best to consult with experienced nursing home abuse lawyers to determine how the law applies to your loved one's situation.
What damages can my loved one recover in a sex abuse lawsuit?
Like other types of nursing home abuse or negligence cases, a sexual abuse lawsuit against a nursing home is considered a civil claim. Under Illinois law, a victim of sexual abuse can recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
Generally, most sex abuse claims involving nursing home residents comprise non-economic damages, primarily intangible damages, including pain and suffering, psychological trauma, loss of enjoyment of daily living, and humiliation.
Does it matter if the perpetrator is no longer working at the facility?
You can bring a sexual abuse lawsuit against a nursing home, irrespective of whether the facility currently employs the perpetrator when you file a lawsuit.
By state law, you can still file sexual assault allegations against the known predator and other staff members even if they work at other nursing homes.
Families, visitors, and other residents can report what they know to the state agency or Illinois nursing home hotline at (888) 252-4343.
Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers with Experience Prosecuting Sexual Assault Cases
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC helps sexually abused residents obtain financial compensation for their injuries and for the suffering involved in such a horrifying event.
While compensation does not undo the mistreatment, it can help victims seek justice and recovery for the psychological, mental, and rehabilitation expenses incurred.
Call our personal injury law firm at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation on how to stop the abuse, and hold those responsible parties accountable for their inappropriate actions.