As many as 43,678 people live in one of South Carolina’s 2,039 long-term care facilities (South Carolina Department on Aging). When loved ones arrange for a loved one to be cared for in a home, they hope and expect that the facility will be safe.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a devastating problem in our care facilities.
Why is sexual abuse in nursing homes such a problem?
People usually enter skilled care facilities because they need assistance with daily living. The victim may not be able to speak out, caregivers may have easy access to victims, and there might not be enough oversight throughout the facility. These are just some of the common contributing factors to the abuse.
Because of medical conditions or intimidation, residents may not be able to tell anyone what has happened. They may not even recognize that what has happened is abuse. The care facility may want to silence the accuser to keep up the appearance that everything is okay.
What are the signs of sexual abuse?
Family members should stay vigilant about the signs of abuse. Any of the following may be an indicator that something isn’t right:
- Unexplained injuries
- Not wanting to be alone, especially with a specific person
- Refusing to speak to family members, becoming withdrawn
- Avoiding socialization
- A loss of interest in activities
Keep in mind that other types of abuse often accompany sexual abuse. When any type of abuse is recognized, it’s important to thoroughly investigate other kinds of abuse as well.
Can anything be done about sexual abuse in a nursing home?
If sexual abuse happens to a loved one in a nursing home, it can be hard to know what to do.
First, know that South Carolina law requires professionals covered under the law to report any suspected adult abuse. Many healthcare providers are mandatory reporters under the law.
How to report sexual abuse in a nursing home in South Carolina
To report sexual abuse in a nursing home in South Carolina, call the South Carolina Department of Social Services at 1-888-CARE4US (1-888-227-3487). You may also make a report online.
Even if you’re not a mandatory reporter, you should make a report.
You may also call the Long Term Ombudsman at 1 (800) 868-9095. The care facility may also investigate a report, and you may also report the matter to the police. Remember, sexual assault is a serious crime.
Is the nursing home liable for sexual abuse?
In South Carolina tort law, an employer is not liable for an employee’s intentional tort. So how can a nursing home be responsible for the actions of their employee or even the actions of another resident? Multiple legal theories may be used to hold a care facility accountable when sexual abuse occurs:
- Not supervising the resident sufficiently to protect from abuse
- Allowing a worker to remain on the job when there have been reports of misconduct
- Lack of accountability among workers; allowing workers to be alone with residents
- Ignoring signs of abuse; not investigating when there are warning signs
- Hiring unqualified workers; allowing workers to be employed when they have a criminal history or signs that they are inappropriate to work with vulnerable adults
- Failing to have procedures and protections in place to prevent and investigate abuse
- Not supervising residents when they are interacting with each other
A nursing home has a legal obligation to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of their residents. The facility may be legally liable to the victim for what has happened and the suffering that they endure because of the abuse. Even if the nursing home doesn’t directly sanction the abuse, there may be a lot of ways that their actions or inactions contribute to the abuse occurring.
Lawyers for sexual abuse in nursing homes
If a loved one has been sexually abused in a care facility, they have important rights. You may not know what to do or how to begin to protect your loved one and hold offenders accountable. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Bobby Jones Law represent victims in a variety of matters relating to nursing homes.
Even if you aren’t sure what has happened, you may just know that something is wrong. The actions that you take can honor your loved one, protect their safety and prevent harm to others. Our lawyers help families respond when sexual abuse occurs in a nursing home facility.
We are kind, professional, and aggressive lawyers representing nursing home sexual abuse victims. Call or message us today to talk to our legal team about your situation.