Elder sexual abuse is one of the most atrocious types of abuse. It occurs when caregivers or another person violates the trust given to them to care for an elderly person and takes advantage of that person in a sexual manner. Elderly individuals are usually weak or confused, which makes them easy targets. Also, perpetrators abuse senior citizens who are isolated from their family or have mental problems because they believe they won’t be punished if they abuse them. Elderly abuse can take place anywhere, but it often occurs in nursing homes.
Actions of this nature are incredibly immoral and illegal but can be complicated due to social mores regarding sexual contact. What’s more, elder sexual abuse typically occurs behind closed doors, and many victims don’t report the crime. It’s not uncommon for people to not believe elderly sexual abuse victims who come forward.
According to the Institute on Aging:
- Only 30 percent of victims report it to authorities
- 70 percent of the reported elderly sexual abuse occurs in nursing homes
- Elderly women are 6 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than their counterparts
- The perpetrators are usually the primary caregivers 81 percent of the time.
Research studies by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) established that the oldest victims usually don’t assist in the conviction of an adult sexual abuser. The research also revealed that victims of elder sexual abuse are less likely to be believed, especially if there have been no symptoms of trauma to the body. Elderly victims who live in a nursing home were the least able to obtain a conviction based on the abuse acts perpetrated against them.
Believing allegations of elderly sexual abuse in California is our first reaction. At Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we know from experience that sexual abuse of elderly citizens typically occurs in nursing homes and in the community, and we’re committed to helping abuse victims. We act swiftly to protect the victim and make sure the abuser is held responsible for the damage they have caused to the victim and their family. Call (310) 359-9451 to make an appointment for a consultation with a skilled and experienced California elder sexual abuse attorney.
Overview of Elder Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse refers to the initiation of sexual contact with an elderly person when the contact is unsolicited or nonconsensual. This includes making contact with an elderly person who is incapable of giving consent or simply confused due to limitations that are mental, physical, or chemically induced ( for instance via alcohol, drugs, or medication). Irrespective of whether the contact is minor or significant, an act is considered sexual abuse if it’s sexual in nature and nonconsensual.
Sexual abuse includes nonconsensual:
- Touching of genitals, buttocks, breasts, and anus
- Trafficking, coercing or forcing someone into sexual contact with another
- Sexual intercourse, including oral or anal penetration
Hands-off sexual abuse of the elderly includes:
- Making sexually explicit photographs of the victim without against their will.
- Voyeurism or watching the victim undress for other than hygiene or medical reasons.
- Forcing someone to undress in front of others outside of a medical setting.
- Forcing someone to watch others engage in sexual activity, including pornography.
According to the National Council on Elder Abuse (NCEA), domestic elder abuse is mistreatment committed by a person with whom the elder has a special relationship including a partner, sibling, caregiver, or another close associate. Institutional abuse refers to mistreatment that takes place in assisted living facilities, nursing facilities, and other long-term care facilities. Typically, it’s committed by someone with a legal or contractual responsibility to offer some level of protection or care to the victim, like a nursing home staff. Nonetheless, nursing home residents can also be abused by fellow residents, and this abuse usually takes the form of sexual abuse.
A type of institutional sexual abuse is referred to as ‘harmful genital practices”. It’s painful or humiliating touching of the elderly person’s genital area that isn’t a part of a nursing care plan. It may entail abuse acts such as:
- Cleansing inner and outer genitalia with alcohol wipes
- Inserting objects or fingers into the person’s rectum or vagina
- Inserting or applying creams, soap, enemas, and others when not medically necessary.
Symptoms of Elder Sexual Abuse
In cases of sexual assault involving the elderly, it’s often difficult for victims to come forward. This is especially true with older adults who may have more strict views of sexuality, are unable to speak out on their own behalf, or experience shame or self-blame. Nonetheless, there are potential signs of sexual abuse that those close to the elderly should be cognizant of. Some of the warning signs include:
- Experiencing problems when walking or sitting
- Sustaining a pelvic injury
- Developing a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Bruises of the genitals or inner thighs
- Torn, bloody or stained underwear
- Pain attacks
- Bleeding from the genitals or anus
- Signs of agitation
- Pain or irritation of the anus or genitals
- Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Suicide attempts
- Engaging in inappropriate, aggressive or unusual sexual activities
- Engaging in inappropriate or unusual actions that show a sexual relationship with the perpetrator
- Sudden changes in sleeping habits
- Sudden changes in mood and temperament
- Shrinking from physical contacts, like hugging
- Regressive behavior
- Shrinking from physical contact, such as hugging
- Trying to flee or begging to leave the facility
- Becoming fearful in the presence of certain individuals
- Resisting certain kinds of care, such as bathing assistance
An elderly person who has been sexually assaulted or abused may start talking about dating, being pregnant or attractive, or about possibly having an STD. A potential abuser may suddenly display inappropriate romantic behavior or affection toward the abuse victim.
Why are the Elderly Susceptible to Sexual Abuse?
Older adults, especially those in nursing homes, are completely reliant on the nursing home staff and caretakers. They rely on them for the most basic human needs, including medical care, food, and living conditions. Some of the victims depend on wheelchairs and walkers to get out of their beds and move around. Some cannot speak and have lost their memories. Basically, they go to nursing homes or hire individuals to offer much-needed care.
It may be difficult to unearth the susceptibility of elderly nursing home patients given that their medical conditions make it impossible or difficult for them to communicate with others, recall what has occurred to them and tell others what is happening to them. Individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other types of memory impairment, for instance, may not be able to remember what has happened to them. Because of the victim’s confused state, the offender believes no one is going to believe their accusations, which makes them feel more confident.
Usually, sexual abusers who target older adults hold tremendously powerful position to prevent disclosure. They can intimidate victims by threatening to withhold medication, food, or other services. For the most part, elderly sexual abuse happens when the potential offender feels like he/she can inflict abuse without any consequences. Moreover, traditionally, women are treated as weaker than men and less likely to fight back and overcome the perpetrator. As such, elderly women are much more likely to be sexually abused than older men.
Abuse committed by a person that the victim is close to or cares about may go unreported because the elderly person may have concerns that the abuser will get in trouble. The victim may also feel ashamed to report that a loved one is hurting them. In cases involving elderly individuals who reside in their homes, they may have fears that reporting will end with them being sent to a nursing home.
Other risk factors for elder sexual abuse include:
- Physical disability
- Neglect from family and caregivers
- Social isolation from family and friends
Cases in the Media Regarding Elder Sexual Abuse
Incidents and lawsuits involving elder sexual abuse are all too common in California. In 2017, a 28-year-old Sacramento caregiver was convicted of sexual abuse of a 65-year-old victim who was a stroke survivor and had significant strength, mobility, memory, and communication impairments. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. In 2018, a Bakersfield man was arrested for entering an elderly woman’s home, exposing himself, and sexually assaulting her. In another case, a Monterey nursing home a case involving an 88-year woman who was sexually assaulted and infected with an incurable STD after being institutionalized for a short time to recover from a stroke. These are some of the cases that have made it to the courts, but many cases go unreported. Take your first step today by contacting Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm.
Steps to Take After Elder Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse in California is a crime. Anyone who suspects that another person, especially vulnerable older adults, is being sexually assaulted has a duty to report it to the authorities as soon as possible. If you’re suspicious about an elderly loved one being sexually abused, make a point of asking them in private about their bruises and other physical indicators and whether they recall what caused them. Also, ask whether anyone is treating them in an uncomfortable or painful manner. We understand that it can be uncomfortable to initiate these conversations, particularly with a parent or grandparent. But you should, nevertheless, to protect your loved one from further abuse.
Anyone who witnesses the crime has a duty to inform the law enforcement officer. If there are signs that a senior living in the community or a nursing home resident is in immediate danger of sexual assault or abuse, remove them from the facility or from the perpetrator, and make sure that the issues have been effectively addressed by the police department or the nursing home management. This is the best way to make sure that the elderly person is no longer subjected to abuse and that you can take the next steps without worrying about their immediate safety.
For emergency assistance, call 911. An emergency medical professional who examine any person and suspects a crime will report his/her suspicions to the police. Getting medical assistance plays an important role in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and helps provide evidence of sexual abuse. State authorities have a duty to investigate allegations of elder sexual abuse and provide assistance to the abuse victim.
If you can identify indicators that a loved one is being sexually abused at a nursing home or any other long-care facility, make sure that you inform a manager of the facility verbally and in writing. This will help put your complaint on the record. Some managers would rather obscure a sexual abuse or assault scandal than deal with the consequence. Your complaint would come in handy should there be attempts to cover up the crime
It’s also imperative to consult with an experienced California elder sexual abuse attorney. In addition to ensuring that the offender is investigated by the police and the victim is protected, an experienced attorney can conduct an independent investigation and build a case to seek compensation for the damages and losses incurred because of the abuse. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm has a track record of success prosecuting sexual offense cases against our respected elders. Contact us today to get started with your case.
Who Can Be Held Responsible For Elder Sexual Abuse?
Determining who the defendant in an elder sexual abuse lawsuit it greatly depends on the circumstances of the case. For a legal remedy, the plaintiff must provide clear and compelling evidence that the respondent has committed a crime out of negligence, recklessness, willful malice, or oppression. Liability in an elder sexual abuse case may be assigned to:
- Employers like nursing facilities, rehabs, hospitals, or assisted living centers
- Individuals like family members, friends, neighbors, strangers, or coworkers.
- Employees such as officers, nurses, managers, doctors, administrators, or other caregivers.
In an elder sexual abuse lawsuit, there may be more than one defendant named. In most incidents, a civil attorney will pursue an insured institution, like a nursing home and not just an individual offender. This approach helps ensure maximum restitution for both the sexual abuse victim and their loved ones. It’s important to note that survivors of the elder abuse are also qualified to seek justice, irrespective of whether an arbitration agreement was signed upon admission into the facility.
The Process of Elder Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuit
Step 1: Filing the Complaint
The lawsuit begins with the plaintiff drafting and filing of a complaint, which explains to the court and the defendant what the plaintiff is suing for. The documents must be personally served on the Defendant within 60 days of the being filed with the court. Moreover, if you’re suing a corporation, provided its headquarters are in California or are governed by the law of California in another way, similar steps apply as though you’re suing an individual.
For instance, after establishing you have legal standing and properly filed your initial lawsuit in the right court and county, you should serve the petition to the business or their registered agent as a way of informing them about the lawsuit. You may find a corporation’s registered agent by carrying out a search through the secretary of state’s office.
Step 2: The Answer
After being served with the lawsuit, the defendant has 30 days to prepare and file a demurrer or answer. Basically, the answer acknowledges or denies the accusations stated in the complaint. A demurrer, on the other hand, refers to a motion to dismiss the petition on the basis of the complaint being defective.
Step 3: Discovery
The plaintiff may begin the discovery process 10 days after the complaint is served. The defendant, however, may send discovery any time once the lawsuit is filed. There are 3 types of written discovery: Requests for production, Interrogatories (special form), and Request for admission. Response to written discovery must be submitted within 30 days. Failure by a party to respond to discovery prompts the other party to file a motion compelling the court to force a response.
Step 4: Motion for Summary Judgment
Once discovery is complete, one or both parties involved may make a motion for summary judgment. The motions ask the judge to establish whether either party is entitled to win as a matter of law. The judge will receive all the undisputed details in relation to the causes of action or defenses alleged by the parties. In case there’s no factual dispute, and one side is legally entitled to judgment, the ruling judge will grant the motion for summary judgment. It’s important to note that there’s a filing fee for a motion for summary judgment.
Step 5: Trial
A trial is conducted to determine which party has presented truthful facts. Trial can take place in front of a judge or a jury. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof to show it is more likely than not that he/she was sexually abused. This involves using a preponderance of the evidence or balance of probabilities. During the trial, the plaintiff’s case goes first, and the defendant has a chance to present their case in defense. Once all parties involved have put on their cases, the judge or the jury will deliberate as to a decree. The case is over if liability is established in favor of the defendant. However, if liability is determined in favor of the plaintiff, the jury or judge will determine the amount of damage and will then deliver a verdict.
Step 6: Post Trial
After a judgment is delivered, either party may make a post-trial motion or file an appeal to have the judgment vacated or amended. In most cases, the defendant simply pays, but in others, the plaintiff must take a debtor’s examination to determine where assets are hidden. Debtor’s examination is an examination under oath of the defendant. The final step is the “release,” where the defendant releases all funds to the plaintiff’s attorney.
Types of Compensation for Elder Sexual Abuse
Coming to terms with the repercussions of sexual abuse can be tremendously difficult. It involves a lot of painful emotions that are challenging to process. Many survivors of sexual abuse experience thoughts of self-harm, drug or alcohol abuse, loss of appetite, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and many other issues. Filing a civil lawsuit can help an elder sexual abuse victim recover compensation for their losses. You’ll work with your sexual abuse attorney to discuss the numerous ways your loved one’s life has been affected by the abuse. Your attorney can then take the necessary steps to seek the compensation you deserve.
Some most common kinds of damages included in these claims:
- Medical expenses
- Financial support
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Court and attorney fees
- Relocation expenses
- Mental health counseling
- Loss of companionship and love
- Lost wages when taking care of an abused loved one
Settlement amounts range greatly depending on the severity of the abuse as well as the damages. It also depends on how well the case is prepared and the knowledge, professionalism, and experience of your counsel.
Find a California Elder Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me
Elderly people left at the care of other people are usually frail and need help bathing, walking, or dressing. Some are facing dementia, and others are in their last days. The society and those trusted with the care of older adults should provide an opportunity for them to have a peaceful and restful life and not have to deal with sexual advances or abuse. Unfortunately, some of the people tasked with caring for the elderly end up committing sexual misconduct against them.
In cases as sensitive as those involving elder sexual abuse, it is reassuring to know that there is a team of dedicated attorneys committed to fighting for the rights of those who have suffered sexual abuse. If you believe you have a legitimate claim against a stranger, family member, healthcare provider, caregiver, or nursing home facility, Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm invites you to get in touch with our offices.
We understand that elder sexual abuse cases can be complicated with third party interests working relentlessly to dodge liability and protect their reputations and money. You need a winning team, and we are ready to review your case, assess your options, and if need be, aggressively pursue the restitution your family deserves. We also know that these circumstances are extremely private and emotionally challenging, and our attorneys have dedication, deep compassion, and a high degree of sensitivity to these issues. We are committed to pursuing the best possible outcomes and closure to your family.