Because of the weak position of residents in long-term care institutions, group homes, and private homes, sexual assault by health care employees can be particularly severe. Most of these victims are senior or have substantial mental or physical limitations, allowing perpetrators to carry out their crimes without being detected. The group home operator or the agency that employs home health staff enforces policies that protect their clients and residents. At Sex Crime Attorney, we represent residential care sexual abuse victims across Los Angeles. We can help in filing a sexual abuse lawsuit to hold the perpetrators responsible for their actions.
Understanding Residential Care Facilities
Residential care facilities are long-term caring institutions for people who require complete or partial care. Many facilities perform this purpose, though all residential care centers are principally for elderly individuals who want to live independently of their families. Other common names for such institutions are nursing homes and residential homes.
The decision to move to any of these centers might be personal or one made in consultation with close family and friends. Long-term healthcare is frequently provided in these facilities, allowing for a wholesome approach to continuing living, especially for persons with mental or physical disabilities. A family or person should consider the possibility of abuse when making these decisions.
Sexual abuse can take on many forms and includes:
- Unwanted intimate touching of any kind, especially to breasts or genital area
- Rape, oral or anal sex
- Forced nudity
- Forced observation of masturbation and pornography
- Taking sexually explicit photographs or audio/video recordings of a resident and distributing them online or in-person. This includes pictures or recordings of residents who are not fully clothed while being cared for (bathing, dressing, etc.)
The Population that is More Vulnerable to Residential Care Sexual Abuse
In 2016, 819 reports of sexual assault were reviewed by the Ombudsman programs. Sexual abuse is more likely to occur in women and persons with dementia and Alzheimer's. Women make up about two-thirds of the nursing home population (65.6 percent). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every five women has been raped or victim of attempted rape, compared to one out of every 38 men.
Due to their decreased communication skills and memory, dementia and Alzheimer's patients are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. Although women and patients with memory loss are more prone to be sexual abuse, all residents are susceptible.
In nursing homes, the following individuals can perpetrate sexual abuse:
- Aides, caregivers, or other workers within the residence
- Criminals who break into the facility
- Fellow residents
- The facility's visitors
Some patients may have dementia or a different mental health condition that affects their decisions and behavior, resulting in sexual aggression between residents (RRSA). The most prevalent sexual assault in nursing homes is RRSA caused by dementia. It's worth noting that residents have a legal right to participate in consenting sexual conduct, but only if both inhabitants can consent.
Because certain people with dementia and other cognitive problems may be unable to consent to sexual activity, their caregivers must thoroughly and adequately examine their ability to approve through established ethical and legal standards. Facilities must safeguard residents' safety and their right to acceptable sexual expression.
Explaining Sexual Abuse in Residential Care Facilities
Sexual abuse can include unsolicited sexual or romantic behavior. Since the seniors in nursing homes may have physical or mental problems, they are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.
These issues may make it difficult for them to give consent or defend themselves in the event of an assault. Sexual abuse of the elderly is a common kind of senior abuse that remains unreported, uninvestigated, and unrecognized.
Families should frequently visit their loved ones at nursing homes to ensure their safety. Nobody deserves to be abused at a nursing home, whether sexually, physically, or emotionally.
Residential Care Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse
There could be physical and psychosocial indicators of sexual abuse if a nursing facility resident is assaulted. Sexual abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including:
- Bruises on the inside of the thighs, breasts, or genital area
- Sexually transmitted illnesses or unexplainable genital infections
- Anal or vaginal bleeding, irritation, or pain that isn't explained
- New walking or sitting difficulties
- Underwear that is torn, discolored, or bleeding
There are occasions when there are no obvious physical indicators of abuse. There are, however, other indicators that something is awry, such as:
- Excessive agitation
- Detachment from social situations is a common symptom of depression.
- Panic attacks or the first signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attempts on suicide
- Fear or aversion of an individual or place
- Fear being alone or in the dark
- Increased nightmares or disturbed sleep
- Residents may have atypical interactions with their abusers, such as strained relationships and constant disagreements
- They could also display nervousness or extreme fear in the presence of their abuser, leading to more aggressive tendencies
When a resident claims to have been raped or sexually assaulted, take their word for it! They have the right to live in a safe environment free of abuse. According to federal law, nursing home individuals have the right to liberty from abuse, even sexual abuse.
Statistics on Residential Care Sexual Abuse
As per a 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report:
- 7 percent of nursing home employees admitted to sexually abusing patients
- Sexual abuse was reported by 1.9 percent of nursing home inmates (or their guardians/loved ones)
- Out of all the categories of abuse, sexual assault was the least mentioned
Nursing home sexual abuse is frequently underreported. This could be attributed to the societal shame associated with sexual assault or the perpetrator's fear of retaliation. Furthermore, persons with mental or physical problems may not repeat their experiences and report them to the authorities.
Over the last 20 years, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has received over 20,000 reports of sexual assault in residential care. It indicates that three persons in residential care are sexually molested every day.
These estimates do not account for sexual abuse perpetrated by other residents, implying that the actual degree of sexual abuse in these facilities is likely to be substantially higher.
It's difficult to ascertain the entire magnitude of the problem because there's no national registry on sexual assault in residential care.
Over 1,000 residential care, sexual abuse reports in the United States between 2013 and 2016. According to a CNN report from 2017, approximately 100 of these establishments were cited multiple times.
More than 500 nursing homes were also criticized for not investigating and disclosing sexual abuse complaints or failing to screen personnel for prior sex offenses.
While numerous care homes take incidents of sexual abuse seriously, there are still too many institutions that try to brush them underneath the rug.
Duty of Residential Care Facilities to Safeguard Residents from Neglect and Abuse
Nursing homes for the elderly have a legal responsibility to protect the health of their residents. When it comes to hiring employees, assisted living homes, for example, must be cautious. They must check prospective nursing home employees' criminal records and sentenced offender registries to ascertain if they are blocklisted from employment due to prior acts.
Furthermore, nursing homes must evaluate patients upon admission to identify if they are violent offenders. When a care facility admits a resident with a violent past, the facility is responsible for keeping the resident away from other patients.
Protecting Dear Ones in Nursing Homes from Sexual Abuse
If you suspect a loved one is being sexually abused in a care facility, don't hesitate to intervene. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) suggests taking various steps.
These steps are as follows:
- Making a 911 call or contacting the local police station
- Contact the (APS) Adult Protective Services
- Contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in your area
- Call The State Licensing and Certification Agency (It handles residential care inspections and complaints)
You might also report the incident to the nursing home's management to ensure that the occurrence is documented. Reporting the abuse will not only help your loved one go through the recovery process. It will serve to protect other residents from similar incidents.
Below are other critical things that you should do:
- Ensure the resident's safety. Please make sure the resident who has been targeted is safe, and all their immediate care needs are being met
- Do not bathe, urinate, change or wash your clothing or bedding, brush your teeth or gargle to preserve any physical evidence of the abuse
- Talk to the resident about the need for a rape kit (if warranted), gain consent, and ensure they get one done.
- Obtain medical attention for the resident and support from victim's services programs
- Continue to connect with the resident periodically to monitor how they recover from the abuse. Link the resident with appropriate medical and psychological support
Sexual Abuse's Impact on Seniors
Since 2000, there've been roughly 16,000 sexual abuse reports at long-term care institutions.
Even when an institution is recognized and fined for failing to protect a person, the fee is merely a metaphorical slap on the wrist, provided the facility receives huge amounts of money in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
In a few cases, the care facility will lose Medicare financing, which is equivalent to a death penalty for a facility that relies on government initiatives for the majority of its income.
For example, a resident of a Christian Care Home in Ferguson, Missouri, was raped. The incident was the most heinous among a string of violations. In reply, Medicare declared that the home would no longer be eligible for payouts. The house declared that it'd close due to its inability to survive.
In certain cases, the nursing home's unfavorable publicity due to the abuse could be a more fitting penalty, resulting in future liabilities as residents quit the institution, reducing the facility's earnings.
Sexual abuse involving senior citizens is frequently reported in the media, and the news reverberates with families considering which facility to take their loved ones.
Nursing Home Laws in the United States
The United States Congress has passed many rules to safeguard defenseless elderly patients, which apply to all long-term care institutions in the country.
- The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 established basic standards of care and established fundamental rights for nursing home residents.
- The federal government has many nursing home rules that cover almost every facet of facility management.
- These rights include the freedom from mistreatment, abuse, neglect, and the right to privacy, dignity, and the ability to make independent decisions.
- Caregiving institutions must meet patients' medical, psychological, physical, and social requirements.
- The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program established a nationwide system of advocates for nursing home patients who investigate and try to address individual allegations of abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
California has some of the most stringent nursing facility inspection laws in the country. For infractions, certified nursing centers in the state get penalized and punished regularly. However, this does not often drive the facilities tasked with caring for residents to act appropriately.
Here are some resources you could look into for more insight into the existing state laws:
- Adult Protective Services in California
- "SAIF" is the acronym for the California Department of Corporations (Seniors Against Investment Fraud)
- Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse (California Courts Self-Help Center)
- Ombudsman for Long-Term Care in California
- Department of Aging of California
- The Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse Bureau of the California Attorney General
Statutory Limitation for Residential Care Sexual Abuse
The limitation period requires that all sexual assault allegations be submitted within a certain amount of time. If you do not file a lawsuit within the specified timeframe, the court will dismiss the case due to the statute.
The statute legislation determines the statute of limitations in effect at the time of the incident. Because each state's statute and other specific provisions vary, it's advisable to speak with a knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorney about your constitutional rights and choices. That said, in California, the statute of limitation is two years. However, there could be exceptions depending on the facts of the case. Your attorney will direct you through all the necessary steps.
Investigation of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Nursing Homes
Allegations of sexual misconduct or physical assault must be extensively investigated and disclosed to state agencies within hours of the facility becoming aware of the alleged incidence.
While the majority of complaints of assault are never proven, nursing facilities are nonetheless required to ascertain and report any claim made, irrespective of whether it seems to be genuine once submitted.
There are a variety of implications if a residential facility is judged to have neglected to protect its inhabitants. Regulators from both the state and the federal government are likely to decide against the long-term nursing institution.
If the hospital receives multiple monetary penalties for noncompliance, it may be removed from the Medicaid and Medicare programs. There will almost certainly be some civil culpability.
According to a CNN study, 226 nursing facilities between 2010 and 2015 failed to protect seniors in cases where there was confirmation for sexual assault.
How to Sue for Residential Care Sexual Abuse
Most sexual abuse lawsuits against residential care residents are lodged against the institution where the assault occurred. The reason for suing the care center (assisted living homes or residential care) and not the person is primarily a matter of insurance coverage plus the perpetrator's capacity to afford a payout or judgment in a case.
Most people do not have enough assets to pay a significant judgment in a sexual assault lawsuit. When an incident of sexual assault takes place in a long-term care facility, the facility will most likely be held liable for failing to protect the victim from abuse.
Damages for Residential Care Sexual Abuse
After demonstrating culpability, a sexual assault victim in a nursing home can pursue damages or compensation from the facility.
Like other sorts of residential care abuse and maltreatment, nursing facility residents who were the victim of sexual abuse have the entitlement to receive both monetary and nonmonetary damages for their ordeal.
These victims may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Costs associated with counseling and therapy
- Bills for medical care
- Suffering and anguish
- Deterioration in the life quality
- Punitive damages are a type of compensation (in some cases)
The vast bulk of compensation awarded in a senior citizen's sexual abuse case is for non-economic damages like the psychological harm the incident caused the victim to suffer. This contrasts with other personal injury law instances, where most compensation is awarded for economic loss.
Examples of Residential Care Sexual Abuse Litigations & Settlements
A few examples of sexual assault lawsuits filed against residential care are the following. Staff assaults were involved in some incidents, while assaults by other residents were the focus of others.
Although it may be intriguing to contrast your dear one's situation to those listed below, you ought to be aware that numerous elements can affect the value of nursing facility abuse cases and have a significant effect on the case's outcome, including:
- The defendant nursing home's culpability
- The victim's age
- Type of facility ownership
- The incident's insurance coverage
- The jurisdiction in which a complaint or lawsuit may be lodged
- Impact of the abuse on the victim
If you have any questions on a sexual abuse incident affecting your acquaintance in residential care and the possible value of the case, you can approach a reputable sex crime attorney and consult over the matter.
$6.75 Million Residential Care Settlement In Pennsylvania
One of the residents sexually attacked another. The abuser had a criminal background and had previously served a twenty-year jail sentence for sexual assault. The perpetrator reportedly threatened an employee with violence, in addition to having a molestation history.
The attacker had previously assaulted the plaintiff in a sexually aggressive manner. Despite this, based on the lawsuit, the personnel permitted the perpetrator and the plaintiff to be alone together.
Despite the perpetrator's criminal background, the Pennsylvania facility maintained that the perpetrator was incapable of the attack and monitored him.
$500,000 Settlement In a California Nursing Home Abuse
While there were no witness accounts to the incident, a patient with schizophrenia alleged that a facility cleaner sexually abused her. The janitor, on the other hand, was a convicted sex offender.
Nursing homes are prohibited from hiring anybody who has been convicted of a felony under state and federal law.
On the other hand, the nursing facility claimed that because this employee was only a janitor, it was not required to conduct a background check. The employee's photo and current status were made public on the internet. The California nursing home agreed to settle the claim following a mediation session.
A Confidential Florida Nursing Home Sexual Assault Settlement
When a male nurse's assistant allegedly massaged her vagina, the resident claimed he sexually attacked her. And after a little time, the resident decided to take a police officer's advice and call a lawyer for a case review.
According to the complainant, the Florida residential facility received concerns about the aide's actions. Although the jury found in favor of the defendant, they resolved the case while the panel was out.
Massachusetts $2.014 Million Sexual Abuse Verdict in a Nursing Home
When the resident went to the bathroom, the staff saw blood in the toilet, proof of sexual abuse injuries. On the other hand, the health care institution failed to send the person to a medical facility or alert their family.
When patients are abused, nursing facilities are required by state and federal law to disclose sex assault and physical violence. The Massachusetts nursing home failed to adequately screen and monitor the accused attacker, according to the complaint. The nursing home, which stated no sexual assaults, did not use a rape kit.
Find a Sex Crime Attorney Near Me
Sexual abuse is a serious violation with several negative consequences for the victim. The anguish and harm caused by an assault may not go away for either the victim or the family. However, our residential care sexual abuse attorneys at Sex Crime Attorney can help your family in obtaining justice. We help clients throughout Los Angeles file for civil lawsuits for sexual assault cases. Call us today at 424-835-9799.