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Nursing homes provide care for vulnerable residents, many of whom live with physical or mental impairments, making them easy targets for sex abusers. 

If you suspect your elderly loved one may be a victim of sex abuse or molestation in a nursing home, take immediate steps to ensure their safety. The Indiana sexual assault attorneys at Wagner Reese can help you bring criminal charges against the abuser and fight for compensation for the damages incurred. 

What is the Frequency of Sex Abuse in Nursing Homes?

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans over 60 has experienced elder abuse. However, only 1 in every 24 elder abuse cases is reported to the authorities.

Patients in nursing homes may fear reprisal or negative attention if they discuss a taboo topic. Important statistics about sex abuse in nursing homes can help families understand this issue.

  • Sex abuse is underreported: Nursing home residents rarely report sexual assault compared to other types of abuse. According to a study of residents’ self-reported abuse, sex abuse accounted for just 1.9% compared to neglect, at 11.6%, and psychological abuse, at 33.4%.
  • Sex abuse is more common among people with disabilities: The likelihood of sexual assault against people with disabilities is 1.5 to 5 times higher than the general population. Approximately 40% of women who have physical disabilities will be sexually assaulted.
  • Women and residents with dementia are more likely to be victims of sex abuse: According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, women are more likely to experience sexual assault because they make up 65.6%, almost two-thirds, of the nursing home population. Those with dementia are vulnerable to sexual assault because of their impaired memory and lack of communication skills.
  • Sex abuse in nursing homes can have devastating effects: Even though sex abuse is underreported, it has severe consequences since 50% of victims pass away within a year of being abused. After being sexually assaulted, women are 50% to 70% more likely to suffer from gynecological, nervous system, and stress disorders.

Who Are the Perpetrators of Sex Abuse of the Elderly?

The perpetrators often target nursing home residents who are unable to speak, are disoriented, or fragile. According to a 2015 study, the most common perpetrators in nursing homes include:

  • Nursing home staff: A frustrated, fatigued, or deceptive staff worker can put the people they are expected to care for at risk. Approximately 2 in 3 nursing home employees admitted to some form of abuse toward patients in 2020.
  • Other residents: Due to their mental impairments and disorientation, residents of nursing homes may assault other residents purposefully or unintentionally. Studies show that people with significant cognitive impairment are more likely to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • Family members and acquaintances: In nursing homes, sex abuse can be perpetrated by family members and other people who know the residents. According to a review of studies, it appears that acquaintances and partners or spouses committed 40% of cases of sex abuse.

What Are the Consequences for Nursing Home Abusers?

Residents of nursing homes are protected from abuse, including sex abuse, under federal law. Nursing homes must have policies in place to prevent sexual molestation and battery, report instances of abuse to the authorities, and conduct a thorough investigation of the case.

However, a review of studies found that most nursing homes either did not report or delayed reporting sex abuse cases. Residents who were found to be perpetrators were transferred to another nursing home or department. Nursing home employees who committed sex abuse were fired, placed on leave, or moved to another position. Some people faced sentencing, and their names were entered into the criminal records.

How to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

Family members should periodically check in on their loved one’s well-being. Someone who has experienced sex abuse may be depressed, withdrawn, or sleep irregularly. They may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests contacting Adult Protective Services (APS) if you suspect abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. If someone you love is in immediate danger, you can call the police.

Families can also work with Indiana nursing home neglect lawyers to seek compensation and justice for their loved ones.

Seek Justice for Your Loved One

If you suspect someone you love is the victim of nursing home sex abuse, take the first step toward justice by scheduling a free, confidential case evaluation with Wagner Reese. Our sex abuse attorneys can assess your case and help nursing home abuse victims understand their rights and restore their dignity.