Misunderstood, underreported, and out of sight. Thousands of senior citizens endure sexual abuse across the nation, yet those responsible for their wellbeing are often unable or unwilling to take action. If your elderly loved one has been sexually abused, you may have entrusted their care to a nursing home, family member, or close friend, only to discover an unforgivable betrayal of that trust.
Because we realize the nationwide magnitude of this epidemic, our elder sexual abuse attorneys at Garcia & Artigliere serve senior citizens throughout the country. When you enlist our support, you will put more than100 years of combined legal experience on your side. We will advocate for your loved one’s rights, pursue the compensation they deserve, and fight to hold those responsible for their pain accountable in a court of law.
We will break the silence with you. Call Garcia & Artigliere at (800) 328-2630 today.
Searching for Signs and a Clear Definition: What Is Sexual Abuse?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), elder sexual abuse is any kind of nonconsensual sexual contact with an older person. Of all forms of elder abuse, sexual abuse is the most hidden, whether by willful ignorance, the lack of training needed to recognize it, or the inability of survivors to seek help. Because prevention begins with awareness, understanding the common signs is a vital first step.
If your elderly loved one has been sexually abused, they may exhibit one or more of the following warning signs:
- Bruises around the breasts, inner thighs, or genital area
- Genital infections/venereal disease
- Vaginal/anal bleeding, pain, or irritation (often causing difficulty sitting or walking)
- Ruined underclothing (i.e. stained or torn)
- PTSD symptoms (e.g. withdrawal, agitation, panic attacks, anxiety, suicidal behavior, etc.)
- Questionable behavior between the survivor and the suspected perpetrator
Sexual abuse is traumatic, no matter the age, gender, orientation, or background of the survivor. The elderly, however, may be more susceptible to life-threatening consequences. Even if you are not 100% sure your loved one has been sexually abused, acting immediately could ensure their survival.
Who Commits Elder Sexual Abuse?
Recent studies show that alleged and confirmed perpetrators are predominantly (but not always) men. Nursing home staff and fellow residents are the most common abusers, followed by family members. Generally, they abuse senior citizens who are fragile and defenseless, such as the oldest residents in a facility, or those with severe mental or physical illnesses.
Often, abusers have one or more of the following:
- Low social competence
- Cognitive impairment
- Psychiatric diagnoses
- Patterns of substance abuse
- Criminal history
- History of committing sexual abuse
According to the study, few perpetrators are held accountable, even in cases with multiple witnesses. When the abuser is a resident, they are often transferred to other facilities rather than reported to the police.
The Challenges of Recognizing and Responding to Elder Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse must be eradicated. However, many factors prevent facilities from properly protecting our senior citizens.
Obstacles faced by survivors of sexual abuse and their families include:
- The sensitivity of the topic. Because survivors may feel embarrassment, shame, and/or guilt, they often do not want to seek support. Health professionals and nursing home staff may want to avoid the taboo subject altogether, therefore refraining from discussing the sexual health and wellbeing with their residents and patients.
- Misconceptions about survivors of sexual abuse. Many mistakenly believe that this type of abuse never happens to the elderly. Due to ageist prejudices, people tend to view senior citizens as asexual. Furthermore, male survivors are particularly underrepresented and often not believed when they report sexual abuse.
- Lack of universal definition of sexual abuse. States often disagree on the technical definition of sexual abuse. Some classify certain types of verbal harassment as sexual abuse, while other definitions require explicit sexual contact in a physical manner. Without a consistent definition across state and national borders, statistics are often unreliable, and those in a position to take action are frequently unsure of how to proceed.
- Lack of guidelines, training, and willingness among health professionals and nursing home staff. Caretakers are often unable or unwilling to handle these cases appropriately. They may fail to document or report sexual abuse when they witness it or when a resident comes forward. Many do not provide survivors with the proper medical or psychological treatment after the abuse.
- The need for additional research. Sexual abuse in nursing homes is severely underreported and misunderstood. Collecting evidence is often challenging, especially when the survivor is cognitively impaired and unable to communicate or remember details of the abuse. Researchers and medical professionals alike may prefer to avoid studying the issue altogether.
Taking Legal Action Today with Attorneys Who Care
Our current facilities, systems, and legislation often fail to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. At Garcia & Artigliere, our team works every day to eliminate the legal hurdles obstructing the path to justice. We will support your loved one with care, sensitivity, and compassion, and we will fight for their rights in court with steadfast dedication to their wellbeing.