How Big a Problem is Rape in Nursing Homes?

Mar 03, 2017

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you prepare yourself for the reality of their aging, health, disabilities, and the possibility of their passing in the future.  In this article titled “How Big a Problem is Rape in Nursing Homes?” we will discuss something you can’t prepare for – your loved one being sexually abused.

None of us want to consider that our loved ones could face such atrocities in a nursing home, but the reality is that the problem of rape in nursing homes is significant.  Further, rape in nursing homes is a problem plaguing the entire country.

At Brown Wharton & Brothers, our nursing home abuse attorneys have seen firsthand the devastation that sexual abuse causes.  We are passionate about defending the rights of aging Americans and their families.  Contact us if you have questions about rape in nursing homes and your rights.

The Issue of Vulnerability

Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable.  Many suffer from illness, disabilities, Alzheimer’s or dementia, and mobility limitations.  They are often weak, fragile, and unable to defend themselves.  Unfortunately, these factors also contribute to the reasons why many cases of rape in nursing homes are never reported.

CNN published a startling report recently detailing the results of a widespread analysis of federal and state data.  The analysis included interviews with the families of rape victims, experts, regulators, and others.  The first thing noted was the fact that rape in nursing homes is very seldom discussed openly.  The second thing noted was the fact that the problem is far more common that people think.

Example Case

The cases identified in the CNN report are horrific, and certainly shed light on the gravity of the problem.  Consider the 2015 case of a 73-year-old aide who was found in the bed of an 83-year-old nursing home resident in the act of sexual assault.  Charges were filed in this case, and the aide was convicted.  His sentence? A mere eight years in prison for such a horrific act.  His attorneys cited that his actions were out of character and pled for leniency.

Documents uncovered by CNN reveal that the sexual assault now landing him in prison were not so out of character as his attorneys suggested.  For several years prior to his arrest, the aide had been the primary suspect in at least two sexual abuse cases, and he had been suspended at least three times due to such allegations.  Just seven months prior to the sexual assault on the woman in our example story, the same aide was investigated for sexual assault on another victim residing in the same wing.

The facility reportedly could not substantiate the claims.  Their failure to take preventative action could have saved other residents from suffering the same trauma.  As the criminal case moved forward, the state acknowledged that the facility failed to take appropriate action, but did not cite them for their wrongdoing.  The aide convicted of sexual assault, and accused in so many other cases, worked at the same facility for more than eight years.

The facility has faced no ramifications.  There have been no formal records filed of a pattern of abuse or allegations of sexual assault, which has resulted in many families unknowingly placing their loved ones in harm’s way.  The families of victims who alleged abuse have stated that they would have pushed further with their own cases had they been aware that a pattern existed, or that so many other allegations had been made.

What is Being Done to Stop Rape in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home residents may be vulnerable and rely on others for help and support, but they are still entitled to the same human and civil rights as any other citizen.  In this example case, multiple issues are addressed that question whether the rights of nursing home residents are being upheld.  The CNN report identified disturbing evidence suggesting that nursing home officials and government agencies are not doing enough to stop rape from happening, and are not doing enough to help those who are victimized.  These findings were not exclusive to our example case discussed above.

The report indicated that some cases are due to negligence, sometimes willful or malicious.  Other cases are due to the inability of nursing home staff to understand the situation and communicate with victims, who may be unable to recall information clearly.  Overall, the report found that families affected by rape in nursing homes were failed in the following ways:

  • Nursing homes failed to investigate and report rape allegations, were reluctant to believe allegations, or chose to hide allegations altogether.
  • Police had a pattern of failing to believe accusations or dismissing them as jumbled due to failing memories.
  • State regulators failed to address and flag patterns of accusations, even when repeated, against a single caregiver or facility.

These failings are all responsible for the continued ability of perpetrators to thrive on these vulnerable individuals.

Rape in Nursing Homes: The Facts

Rape in nursing homes is not exclusive to one gender, race, disability, age, or economic status.  In fact, research suggests it is incredibly widespread.  Consider the following:

  • More than 1,000 U.S. nursing homes have been cited for “mishandling suspected cases” of sexual abuse, or failing to prevent alleged sexual assault, sexual abuse, or rape.  Almost 100 percent of these facilities received multiple citations within the same time frame.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) lumps sexual assault into a multi-category of “abuse”, citing their taking any claim of abuse seriously. There is no specific process for addressing sexual assault in the 15,000 plus U.S.  nursing homes receiving CMS funding.
  • Since 2000, over 16,000 sexual abuse complaints have been filed in long-term care facilities across the U.S. These complaints only account for those recorded by Ombudsmen.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, 226 nursing homes were cited for “failing to protect residents” from incidents involving substantiated sexual abuse. Only 60 percent of those cases resulted in a facility being fined.  Only 16 percent resulted in the facility losing CMS funding.
  • At least 500 facilities were found (in the CNN investigation) to have been cited for failure to investigate or report allegations of sexual abuse, or failing to properly screen applicants before hiring.
  • According to the CNN report, of the 251 sexual complaints across Texas nursing homes in 2015, only 11 were considered “substantiated”.

Another concerning element of this CNN report is the fact that most statistics available only include data from nursing homes.  Assisted living facilities are not regulated by the federal government.  This means the numbers, and devastation, could be much higher.

Get Help Today

What is beyond clear from the CNN investigation is the fact that something needs to change.  And while we may not be able to instigate nationwide change, we can help you and your family stand up and demand justice.  Contact Brown Wharton & Brothers to get the help you need protecting your loved one if any form of nursing home abuse is suspected.  Fill out our online form to get started.