Nursing homes are responsible for keeping their residents safe and looking after their health and well-being. However, many of these facilities don’t live up to the trust that families place in them to take care of their loved ones. Nursing home sexual abuse is a widespread but often unspoken tragedy that victimizes countless patients throughout Illinois. Survivors, many of whom are already suffering from mental or physical ailments, must deal with the trauma of being violated in the most demeaning way imaginable.
Sexual abuse of nursing home residents is unacceptable, but thankfully, victims have legal recourse in the courts. Working with the nursing home injury lawyers of Hale & Monico, you and your family can demand the justice you deserve.
Signs Of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Abuse can happen at the hands of staff members, other residents, or outside visitors to the nursing facility. Even the most reputable homes are not immune to abuse. The problem with nursing home sexual abuse is that it is often underreported, for two important reasons: first, sexual abuse, in general, tends to not be reported due to victims’ feelings of shame or embarrassment. Second, residents in nursing homes are often isolated. Many are rarely, if ever, visited by family members.
It is, therefore, all the more important to be aware of common signs of nursing home sexual abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, those signs include:
- Bruises near the genital area, the inner thighs, or breasts
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, pain, or irritation
- Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
- Unusual difficulty sitting or walking
- Torn, bloodied, or stained underclothing
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Panic attacks
- Extreme agitation
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
- Suicide attempts or other self-harming behavior
- Unusual interactions between the victim and the abuser
Although nursing homes are ultimately responsible for their residents’ welfare, family members should always be vigilant about these and other potential signs of abuse.
Why Does Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Happen?
It is the duty of every nursing facility to ensure that reasonable precautions are taken to protect the safety of all residents. Failure to take these steps could be evidence of negligence, which could further form the basis of a lawsuit against the nursing home.
The first step in holding abusers accountable is to understand why exactly the abuse occurred in the first place. Understanding these reasons will go a long way to establishing liability:
Lack of adequate screening. Criminal background checks and other screening tools are essential to prevent people with a history of sexual violence and abuse from being hired. The failure to conduct these checks is strong evidence of negligence.
Improper employee training. Anyone hired to work in a nursing home should be trained to recognize the signs of sexual abuse. Ignoring or overlooking these signs allows the abuse to continue and potentially victimize others.
Failure to supervise problematic residents. When sexual abuse is at the hands of other facility residents, there’s a good chance the assaulting resident was known to be a potential threat. Problematic residents must be prevented from abusing others, and the nursing home could be held liable for not supervising them.
Poor security. Sexual abuse can happen because strangers are allowed on the grounds of the nursing home. All facilities have a basic obligation to have security measures in place, both inside the home and around it.
Nursing home policies. In many instances, nursing homes have policies that foster a climate of abuse. Or the lack of policies could allow it to happen. For example, a facility should have a policy that requires staff to immediately report and document suspected abuse.
Cover-ups. Some of the most egregious examples of nursing home sexual abuse involve active attempts by leadership to cover up the abuses of their employees. The pursuit of profit or desire to maintain the facility’s reputation explains many of these cases.
What To Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
If you believe a family member has been or is being sexually abused, quick action is essential to preserving evidence and holding the facility responsible. First, report the incident to law enforcement and follow their advice for additional actions to take.
Next, try to document the abuse by taking pictures of physical signs of abuse and interviewing your loved one. Take note of details like the time and date of the abuse and the identity of the abuser. Also, note whether there were any other witnesses to the attack.
Finally, reach out to an experienced nursing home sexual abuse attorney.
How An Attorney Can Help
Your lawyer will start by investigating the details of the sexual abuse. This means speaking with the victim and any witnesses to begin establishing a timeline of events surrounding the attack. As part of this investigation, your lawyer will try to determine whether nursing home policies or practices were responsible for the abuse. While individual abusers like staff members can be held liable, they often lack the financial means to fully compensate the victim for their injuries. Identifying all potential defendants is a key step in building your case.
The victim will likely need medical treatment and mental health counseling to cope with his or her experiences. These services could last for months or years and cost significant sums of money. But the victim should not have to bear this cost. Part of what your lawyer will do is determine an appropriate amount of damages that should be paid to cover these expenses.
Many of these lawsuits settle, in large part because the cost, negative publicity, and possible damages award stemming from a court trial are too risky for the facility and its owners. Your attorney should therefore be skilled in effective settlement negotiations to ensure any offer you receive is adequate justice for your abused family member.
Contact Our Chicago Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Attorney
Because evidence can quickly be lost, and since time deadlines may apply to your case, it’s essential to speak right away with a lawyer if you or your loved one have been abused. Call Hale & Monico. Our compassionate team will discuss your legal options with you today.