1.3 million residents live in nursing homes across the United States (America’s Health Rankings). People who live in these facilities are among the most vulnerable in our society.
While we expect our loved ones to be safe in professional care, there’s one epidemic that we don’t discuss – sexual abuse in nursing homes.
Bobby Jones Law has handled sexual assault cases against nursing homes in the past, and our lawyers are determined to prevent future abuse by seeking justice and encouraging vigilance.
For loved ones and professional caregivers, it’s important to know how to identify the warning signs. These strategies, when used together, can help us remain aware of the signs of abuse.
5 Ways to Spot Signs of Sexual Abuse Among Nursing Homes
1. Get to know the living situation
The warning signs of sexual abuse begin with noticing something out of the ordinary. Of course, to know what is out of the ordinary, it’s important to know what the routine is. The more you can learn about a person’s living situation, the easier it is to identify signs that something may be wrong.
Getting to know a person’s living situation should include learning who their care providers are. They should have a pattern for daily care as well as a plan for medical care needs. Learning who they interact with and what they do each day can help identify if the resident becomes fearful of treatment or wary of a specific person.
A sexual abuser can be a care provider, another resident, an employee, or even a visitor. Learning who is involved in a resident’s life and their day-to-day life can help others identify signs that sexual abuse may have occurred.
2. Know the warning signs of sexual abuse
Spotting sexual abuse means knowing what warning signs to look for. It’s not always easy to identify abuse, especially in cases where the victim may not be able to remember what happened or communicate effectively.
Some of the signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes are:
- Physical injury – New or unexplained physical injuries can be signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes. If caregivers give evasive answers or their explanations don’t make sense, it’s a warning sign that abuse may have occurred. Be especially vigilant about any pelvic injuries, bruising or bleeding of the genitals, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
- Anxiety and fear of certain caregivers – Even if a person cannot report sexual abuse, they may become upset or fearful of a certain person. They may refuse treatment that they need and used to engage in willingly. The victim’s behavior may suddenly change when the offender is nearby.
- Changes in daily patterns – An individual that has experienced abuse may have changes in their everyday behavior. They may be unable to sleep. They may refuse to bathe. Things that used to be routine, like eating, drinking, socializing, and exercise, may suddenly become difficult or avoided. Changes in the everyday activities and interests of the resident may be a sign that they have been abused.
- Aggression or withdrawal – Sexual abuse is physically and emotionally devastating. It may cause the victim to act aggressively or withdraw. Paying attention to behavioral changes can give insight into abuse. Mood changes should be investigated rather than simply attributed to aging.
- Confusing or sexual behavior – A victim may display unusual or sexual behaviors that may indicate that they are being abused. They may use new words or act in ways that mimic the offender’s actions.
Knowing the warning signs of sexual abuse is important in identifying harm to a nursing home resident. However, it is only one part. To spot sexual abuse in a nursing home, it’s important to evaluate the warning signs and take the appropriate action to help the victim.
3. Investigate unusual circumstances
Seeing a warning sign is just an indicator that you should look further. Spotting sexual abuse in a nursing home may require investigating further when something seems amiss.
There are several ways that you can investigate if you suspect something may have happened to a resident. Even though the victim may not be able to articulate what has happened, if they are able, you can ask them what has happened. They can provide information to the extent that they are able.
In addition, you can ask for information from care providers. See if they have straightforward, prompt answers or if their answers are evasive. If you are familiar with the resident’s routines and social circle, you can ask questions of others about the behaviors that you have observed. In addition, you can ask for general information about how the facility prevents and responds to abuse. Following up on the warning signs can help determine if something has occurred and what you should do next.
4. Visit unannounced
Often, sexual abusers and enablers go to great lengths to cover their abuse. Medical records may be hidden, and the victim may be intimidated from speaking about what happened.
One way to gather information when caregivers are reluctant is to visit unannounced. That can help you learn the resident’s living conditions and whether it is consistent with what is presented in coordinated visits. Surprise visits at uneven intervals can expose sexual abuse and other mistreatment in a nursing home.
5. Respond to dangers and warning signs
If you see signs of sexual abuse in a nursing home, it’s important to act. The victim may not recognize what has happened to them, and they may not be able to speak. By responding to dangers and warning signs, you can prevent additional harm and ensure that the individual is safe.
You can report a nursing home for abuse and make a police report. Adult Protective Services can investigate as well, and reporting to the facility administrator can begin an internal investigation. They can determine if sexual abuse has occurred and respond appropriately. By responding and reporting, you enable these organizations to act.
Lawyers for Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home, our lawyers can help you take legal action. Our lawyers at Bobby Jones Law have years of experience advocating for the vulnerable in our society. It’s our goal to hold wrongdoers accountable and seek justice for victims. Contact us today for a consultation with our professional and friendly team.