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Sexually Abuse Among the Elderly

Too many elderly are subject to sexual abuse, which is an alarming trend. Because of their mental condition, including possible dementia, many elderly do not know what is happening to them. For that reason, they can’t consent to any type of sexual contact. Other elderly people know what is happening but live in fear of reprisals if they speak out. They stay silent, which only emboldens their attackers.

At Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, our sexual assault lawyers help victims seek financial compensation from their assailant. We might also sue a nursing home or other facility which is responsible for failing to prevent the attack. Call us to find out more.

How Big of a Problem is Elder Sexual Abuse?

There are not enough high-quality studies in the U.S. measuring how frequently the elderly are sexually abused. However, we know of many complaints regarding sexual abuse in long-term care facilities.

The few studies that exist put the numbers around 1-2%. A study in the United States put the percentage at 0.6%.

These numbers might sound low, but any assault is an outrage. Family and concerned friends should be alert to any signs of sexual abuse, which can prompt them to investigate further to protect a loved one.

What Are the Signs of Sexual Abuse?

Some senior citizens are unable to speak or communicate, so they cannot tell a loved one what is happening to them. However, there are some classic signs of sexual abuse you can recognize on your own, such as:

  • Pain in the groin area
  • Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, and HIV
  • Bloody or torn underwear
  • Bruising around the thighs or genitals
  • Discomfort when sitting down
  • Bleeding from the genitals or anus
  • Unusual, sexually aggressive behavior

Other signs are more subtle. For example, a loved one might express fear of a caretaker or revert to childlike behavior, such as sucking their thumb or curling up in the fetal position. This behavior doesn’t necessarily mean they are being sexually abused. Ordinary physical abuse or terror could be to blame. But any dramatic shift in how an elderly person acts is cause for investigation.

Why Do Elderly People Not Report Sexual Assault?

Many refuse to report for the same reason younger people refuse to report it. They might feel shame or embarrassment. They might even wrongly blame themselves for what happened.

Other reasons include:

  • Threats made by the perpetrator
  • Fear of abandonment if the perpetrator is a caretaker
  • Fear of not being believed
  • Social isolation and not knowing anyone they can trust
  • Difficulty communicating due to illness, dementia, or advanced age
  • Confusion about whether the assault really happened or if they imagined it

How Should You Respond to Signs of Sexual Abuse?

Family members are often unsure of what to do. For one thing, they don’t want to falsely accuse someone of sexual assault. So they might hesitate to do anything or just tell themselves that nothing is wrong.

If your loved one is in a nursing home, you should raise concerns to management. They should have an ombudsman who can receive complaints and investigate. You might also report the nursing home to the Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services.

If you believe a relative is failing to protect a loved one, you can call the Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services. They can investigate any abuse of an elderly person who lives in a private residence.

We also strongly encourage you to call our law firm. We can provide more detailed information about what steps to take, such as how to document your suspicions.

Who Commits Most Sexual Abuse Offenses?

It is hard to say. The majority of those committing any type of abuse are adult children or other family members. That is true of non-sexual physical abuse, financial abuse, and psychological abuse. However, this might not be true of sexual abuse.

Some of the more common perpetrators of sexual abuse against the elderly include staff at nursing homes, including nurse’s aides, orderlies, or program assistants. Even other residents could commit sexual assaults if the facility does not have sufficient staff to provide oversight. A resident might fear reporting sexual abuse even when another elderly resident commits it for all the reasons listed above.

Even parents who live independently can be harassed or assaulted by neighbors, at-home attendants, or friends.

Lawsuits for Sexual Assault

Any type of assault is both a crime and an intentional tort. A victim can seek financial compensation from whoever assaulted them. Monetary damages can provide a sense of justice but also defray the cost of medical care, mental health counseling, or lost income.

We might also be able to sue a nursing home for negligent hiring or failure to protect residents. This is a type of lawsuit which holds the nursing home accountable for its own mistake in exposing residents to harm. For example, some nursing homes don’t undertake a background check of employees, which might have shown a history of sex crimes or other criminal behavior. Other nursing homes ignore complaints and never investigate staff. A nursing home or similar facility is legally obligated to protect a resident, but many cut corners.

Call our law firm. We have ideas for how to protect a senior who might be unable to protect themselves. We can try to move them to a new facility and report any abuse to the state. We can also discuss how to build a case for compensation.

Sexual abuse lawsuits have grown in prominence over the past decade. Georgia law still requires that victims come forward with evidence in support of their claims. Let us work to find the evidence you need.

Call Us for Help

Are you worried about a beloved family member who you fear is being abused? Admitting that sexual assault is happening to a vulnerable adult is often a difficult first step. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys to schedule a confidential consultation where we can discuss your concerns. Our number is (404) 529-3476.

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