Abuse of nursing home residents remains greatly underreported, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). Senior citizens can experience many forms of mistreatment, including sexual abuse.
If you suspect that your loved one has been abused in a nursing home, a Savannah sexual abuse lawyer may be able to help your family seek justice. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm handles nursing homes abuse and neglect cases. We may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek financial compensation for your relative’s physical and emotional injuries. Call our office to discuss your potential case.
Types of Sexual Abuse
Sexual assault comprises many types of actions. All types, however, hold one thing in common: They happen against the victim’s will or without their consent. Sexual assault also covers actions that occur when an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, disabled, or below the age of consent in the state where the assault transpired.
The National Institute of Justice lists the following activities as forms of sexual assault when they happen in the above circumstances:
- Intentionally touching the victim’s genitals, breasts, groin, or anus
- Exposing the victim to exhibitionisms
- Exposing the victim to pornography
- Publicly displaying images taken of the victim in a “private context” or without their knowledge
These actions may or may not involve the use of actual force, weapons, threats of force, intimidation, coercion, or pressure.
Although in some states, sexual assault stops short of attempted rape or rape, other states use the terms interchangeably, and still others consider rape to be a form of sexual assault. In a situation of rape, the victim suffers nonconsensual penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral), either by objects or the perpetrator’s body parts. This type of assault involves physical force or threats of physical harm. Alternatively, the victim is considered a minor or was incapacitated at the time of the assault.
Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can take many forms. It can include unwanted touching, non-consensual sexual contact, watching or videotaping a person who is completely or partly undressed, or requiring an individual to perform or to watch others perform sexual acts.
Sometimes, there are physical signs of abuse, such as bruises or bleeding in the genital or rectal area or a sexually transmitted infection. Since sexual abuse does not always involve physical acts, there may be no signs of abuse on your loved one’s body.
You may, however, notice changes in their behavior. For instance, your family member may be withdrawn, agitated, depressed, angry, or fearful, either in general or around a particular individual. They may suffer from anxiety or panic attacks. You may notice that your loved one eats less than usual and has lost a significant amount of weight.
For a free legal consultation with a Savannah Sexual Abuse Lawyer serving Savannah, call (800) 794-0444
What to Do if You Suspect That Your Loved One Has Been Abused
If you have observed any of these signs of possible sexual abuse, try to gather more information. Talk to your relative if they can communicate and ask what happened. If you have noticed physical injuries, ask a supervisor at the nursing home what caused them. Speak to other residents about the changes you have seen in your loved one’s behavior or physical condition and ask if they know what brought on those changes.
If what you hear makes you think it is likely that your loved one has been sexually abused, you can contact the police and Adult Protective Services (APS) to file a report. The individual or individuals responsible may face criminal charges under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-102. You can also call a Savannah sexual abuse lawyer.
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Who May Be Responsible for Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Employees at nursing homes may sexually abuse residents. Since turnover tends to be high in nursing homes, managers sometimes cut corners and hire people without thoroughly investigating their backgrounds. That can allow individuals with a history of abuse to gain access to more potential victims.
People who live in nursing homes may also suffer abuse from fellow residents. Some patients, including those with dementia, may be violent. Nursing home patients may assault and sexually abuse fellow residents without understanding that what they are doing is wrong, and they may not remember what they have done after the fact.
In some cases, patients are abused by individuals who visit nursing homes. Delivery people, maintenance and repair workers, and guests of other residents may be perpetrators.
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How Abuse Occurs in Nursing Homes
Residents of nursing homes may be physically unable to defend themselves against their attackers. Due to cognitive decline, they may be unable to tell employees or relatives what has happened to them.
Those who can speak out may be too afraid to do so. Since they are entirely dependent on staff members, victims may fear that they could face further abuse from the perpetrator or retaliation from employees or other residents. Senior citizens who are socially isolated and who only have occasional contact with family members may fear that they would have no one to protect them.
Nursing home workers may fail to spot signs of sexual abuse due to understaffing. High turnover at nursing homes often leaves employees feeling overwhelmed. They may not have time to look for signs of abuse or may not be able to form close relationships with patients. Victims of abuse therefore may not feel comfortable talking to an employee about what has happened to them.
Inadequate training is another problem. If an administrator failed to train workers on how to spot signs of sexual abuse, especially non-physical signs, such as changes in mood and behavior, abuse may be overlooked and may be allowed to continue. If employees did not receive training on reporting procedures, they may not know how to file a report or may mistakenly believe that they need hard evidence, not merely a suspicion, to raise an alarm.
Sometimes nursing home administrators fail to investigate allegations or suspicions of sexual abuse, do not report possible abuse to the proper authorities, or even retaliate against victims who come forward. That can create a culture of fear and intimidation that keeps residents quiet and protects the facility from lawsuits, fines, and negative publicity.
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How a Savannah Sexual Abuse Lawyer May Be Able To Help
A Savannah sexual abuse lawyer may be able to seek justice for your loved one. Our team can find out whether the nursing home conducted background checks, properly trained employees, and responded appropriately to allegations or suspicions of abuse.
If we find that a nursing home employee abused your family member or that the facility’s negligence allowed abuse by a staff member or another individual to go undetected or uninvestigated, we may file a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home.
Because of the statute of limitations under Georgia Code of Civil Practice § 9-3-33, victims of personal injuries have only two years to file a lawsuit. Investigating cases involving sexual abuse in nursing homes may be difficult since victims and witnesses may be reluctant to come forward and perpetrators and others may try to cover up wrongdoing. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we may be able to begin investigating. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today.