Elder sexual abuse is a serious problem that can have devastating, long-lasting effects on victims and forever change lives. Any behavior that is unwanted or non-consensual and sexual in nature classifies as sexual abuse. This can hurt a victim physically and mentally, and lead to permanent damages and ongoing medical treatment. The effects of elder sexual abuse might include:
- Wounds, cuts, scrapes, bleeding, and other signs of physical injury
- Broken bones and fractures
- Damage to the pelvic or reproductive area
- Anxiety, depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sudden change in personality
- Development of a distrust or fear in people
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
No effect of sexual abuse is too minor for immediate attention. Understanding the effects of elder sexual abuse, why elderly individuals are sometimes targeted, and how you can seek help are all important factors in spotting abuse and preventing future occurrences. If you see something, say something. Your loved one could be in immediate danger.
Why the Elderly are Vulnerable
Older adults are sometimes targeted by abusers for several reasons. One reason elderly individuals are sometimes vulnerable for sexual abuse is because of mental impairment. Not all older adults are mentally impaired, but as we biologically age, there tends to be a decrease in mental capacity. In severe cases, like the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, elderly adults can become easily confused and have a difficult time remembering things. They might even lose the ability to speak coherently altogether.
This creates a problematic scenario for victims of sexual abuse. Not only could a person be unable to express consent or objection to sexual behavior towards them, they also may not be fully aware it is happening. To make matters worse, sometimes people in positions of authority do not believe the accounts of victims due to their mental state. Physical limitations also increase the vulnerability of older adults. Our bodies naturally get weaker and less mobile with age. This makes physically resisting an unwanted advance all the more difficult. It is a very sad reality that some abusers prey on victims who are unable to fight back or escape dangerous situations.
Understanding the effects of elder sexual abuse will help you flag suspicious behavior so that you can report it immediately. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of abuse.
Determining Whether Your Loved One Is Experiencing Abuse and Protecting Them
Anyone can be a victim of elder sexual abuse, and there are ways to determine whether sexual abuse is happening to your family member and how you can protect them from abuse:
- Pay attention to complaints or avoidance of specific caregivers or nursing home staff
- Do not allow your loved one to be alone with a stranger, new caregiver, or person who is reasonably suspicious
- Keep an eye out for the symptoms and signs of elder sexual abuse, including physical marks or change in behavior
- Make sure your loved one has a social support system if they are living in a home
- Do research on any nursing home facility your loved one is living in to be sure there is no history of abuse
- Understand the resources available to you and your loved one if you think abuse is occurring. Know where to report problematic observations or behavior
There is no fail-proof way to prevent elder abuse but learning more about what you can do may help you protect those you care about. If someone you love is exhibiting signs of elder sexual abuse, there are ways you can get help.
How You Can Get Help
If you feel that your loved one is the victim of sexual abuse, the first thing you should do is report the incident to authorities and get the medical attention your family member needs. A medical professional will be able to help determine a treatment plan specific to your loved one’s situation, which could include psychological therapy or counseling in the aftermath of abuse.
Sometimes victims of elder sexual abuse decide to pursue legal action against a third-party responsible for the abuse, or for facilitating conditions that lead to abuse. If you are considering taking legal action on behalf of your loved one, there are nursing home abuse lawyers available. Sometimes financial compensation is available for victims. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is available to answer your questions and help you understand your options. Call (800) 842-6336 today for a free consultation with a member of our team.