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Elder Abuse Issues: The Problem of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a serious form of abuse perpetrated on the elderly. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 out of 10 Americans over the age of 60 has been victimized by some type of abuse and around 5 million older seniors are abused annually. Very few of these cases of abuse are ever reported, with only 1 in 14 cases coming to the attention of authorities. When abuse happens, the risk of death for seniors is 300 times greater than if no abuse had occurred.

Elder abuse sexual assault occurs in both nursing homes and private homes. The abuse may be perpetrated by caregivers, including home health aides and nursing home staff. Fellow nursing home residents can also be sexually abusive to other seniors in care facilities, especially if nursing home staff fails to provide adequate supervision.  Abuse can occur both when non-consensual sexual actions are taken against seniors, as well as in situations where seniors are not able to give consent as a result of conditions such as dementia which affects their mental abilities.

Santa Clara County elder abuse lawyers can provide assistance in cases where abuse occurs. An attorney can help victims and families take action for physical harm resulting in sexual abuse, including in situations where seniors develop sexually-transmitted diseases. An attorney can also provide assistance in recovering compensation for the emotional damage that the sexual abuse causes.

The Risks of Elder Abuse: Sexual Assault

The National Council in Aging defines sexual abuse of seniors to include touching, intercourse, fondling and other activities with seniors who cannot comprehend, do not consent, are physically forced to engage in sexual acts or are coerced into the sexual behavior through violence. Sexual assault among the elderly is not about sexual attraction — it is about a power relationship.

The risks to senior abuse victims are grave. Vulnerable seniors could suffer physical injury, could be made sick due to sexually transmitted diseases, and could develop conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  There is at last a 50 percent likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder after a rape, and sexual assault has been linked to the development of both anxiety disorders and depression, according to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Taking Action After Sexual Assaults on the Elderly

Family members of seniors in nursing homes and family members of seniors with residential caregivers should watch for red flags, including missing or torn undergarments or clothing, redness around the genitals or breasts, or exhibiting fear or anger around a particular care provider. Sudden changes in mood or appetite, as well as PTSD and depression, can also be indicators of abuse.

Abuse, when suspected, should be reported. Senior victims of sexual assault and their families can pursue civil claims for compensation for damages resulting from the inappropriate sexual behavior.  A nursing home can be held accountable for abuse by staff members and for abuse by residents facilitated through negligent supervision. The nursing home abuse lawyers at the Evans Law Firm, Inc. can provide help with responding to suspected abuse.

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