Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
The elderly and disabled are among the most vulnerable members of our society. When they enter a nursing home or other long-term care facility, they should be able to expect quality care and respect. Sadly, the very vulnerabilities that lead these older Americans to take up residence in nursing homes make them easy prey. Only about 30% of elder sexual abuse victims report the abuse to law enforcement.
Special Vulnerabilities of the Elderly and Disabled
An elderly or disabled person in a nursing home may be more susceptible to abuse than the average person because:
- The victim may be less able to defend himself or herself physically
- Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may prevent the victim from understanding, recalling, and reporting the abuse
- The victim may have limited contact with able-bodied adults outside the facility
- Other residents who may witness or suspect the abuse may be dismissed as witnesses due to their own infirmities
- The victim may be dependent on the perpetrator for basic care
Some of these factors undoubtedly contribute to the disturbing fact that the older a victim of sexual abuse is, the less likely it is that the perpetrator will be convicted of a crime.
A Civil Sexual Abuse Suit May Be the Answer
Many sexual abuse cases are difficult to prove in criminal court, where all elements of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if the defendant is to be convicted. As a result, there are many possible outcomes to a criminal investigation that are not beneficial to the victim, such as:
- An investigation that is inconclusive
- An investigation that yields insufficient evidence for the prosecution to make a case
- A criminal trial that ends in acquittal
In each of these cases, the sexual abuse victim or another party has made a report, seeking help for the victim and to stop the perpetrator from abusing others. But, due to lack of evidence or other obstacles, the perpetrator was not convicted. This may leave the victim feeling worse and more powerless than ever, increasing the psychological toll sexual abuse takes.
A civil suit can change that, putting the power back in the victim’s hands and opening up a new opportunity for justice. The damages awarded in a civil case can also help the victim to obtain the care he or she needs in a safe, comfortable environment. The degree of proof required for a civil judgment is different from that required for a criminal conviction. That means that it is possible to win a civil case, even if the prosecution has lost a criminal case based on the same events.
Of course, the victim of sexual abuse is also free to pursue a civil suit after the perpetrator has been convicted.
Liability for Elder Sexual Abuse
A lawsuit against the abuser is the most obvious course of action for a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home, but it isn’t necessarily the only one—or the best option. Other parties may be partially to blame for the abuse. In a nursing home or other long-term care facility setting, the most likely additional responsible party will be the facility itself.
If a resident is abused by a staff member in a nursing home, the facility may be liable for a number of possible reasons, including:
- Inadequate supervision
- Inadequate pre-employment screening
- Improperly handling complaints or ignoring warning signs
Even when the abuse is perpetrated by another resident, the facility may be liable on the grounds that residents were not adequately supervised or protected.
Damages in a Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case
Damages differ from one sexual abuse case to the next, even when the facts of those cases are similar. The physical and psychological impact on the victim will differ, and the treatment and accommodations required will vary based on the victim’s age, physical condition, level of dependence on nursing care and other factors.
Talk to a Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you’ve been victimized by a caretaker, or you have been sexually abused in a facility responsible for your care such as a nursing home, you have rights. A sexual abuse lawyer can be the best source of information and advocacy as you reclaim your power. Schedule your free consultation right now to learn more about how we can help.