Rape in long-term care facilities is common, underreported and often ignored, allowing it to continue says Boca nursing home abuse attorney Joe Osborne.
If you read the term “sexual predator” in the news you might assume it involves the sexual assault of children. Sexual predators also operate in Florida assisted living facilities and nursing homes, where they work. Nursing home abuse attorney Joe Osborne says rapes in nursing homes are underreported and the government does little about them.
In a lengthy and grim report CNN goes into detail about the problem of rape in nursing homes and how ineffective government regulators are to prevent it from happening. They summed up their findings this way,
…(V)ictims and their families were failed at every stage. Nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because of a reluctance to believe the accusations -- or a desire to hide them. Police viewed the claims as unlikely at the outset, dismissing potential victims because of failing memories or jumbled allegations. And because of the high bar set for substantiating abuse, state regulators failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against a single caregiver…It's these systemic failures that make it especially hard for victims to get justice -- and even easier for perpetrators to get away with their crimes.
CNN found it’s difficult to learn the extent of the problem because state regulators lump allegations of sexual abuse with other forms of abuse. When these claims are investigated it’s rare that allegations are substantiated. Of 386 sexual abuse cases in Illinois since 2013, 59 were substantiated. In Texas 11 of 251 sexual assault complaints in the 2015 fiscal year were substantiated. Wisconsin informed CNN it didn't substantiate any reported sexual abuse in the last five years.
Federal data from the Administration for Community Living shows that there have been about 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse reported in long-term care facilities since 2000. Agency officials told CNN that number represents part of the problem because they count only cases where state long-term care ombudsmen got involved.
CNN reports that facility inspection reports filed nationwide between 2013 and 2016 and an analysis of actions taken against long term care facilities show,
- The federal government cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities.
- Nearly a hundred of these facilities were cited multiple times.
- At least a quarter of the reports included allegations that assaults were allegedly perpetrated by aides, nurses and other staff members, while a small portion involved facility visitors (including family members) or unknown assailants.
- Most citations dealt with cases of residents abusing other residents, accusations against caregivers and other workers tended to be far more serious.
- More than 500 facilities were cited for failing to investigate and report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities or for not properly screening employees for potentially abusive pasts. One nursing director told a state inspector that "if the facility reported all allegations it would be numerous and the State Agency wouldn't want that either."
CNN found this epidemic of sexual assault of the elderly and disabled couldn’t happen without the negligent or intentional actions of nursing home management.
- Allegations by residents are often questioned or dismissed because victims have cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer's.
- Workers often lack training needed to spot sexual abuse so abuse that should be found and reported is not.
- The reputation and continued operation of the facility may take priority over resident safety. Staff may fear investigators looking into a facility may expose other issues, threaten a nursing home with closure or open the door to costly lawsuits.
- There are also instances where administrators and employees actively impeded investigations.
CNN’s investigation shows that government regulators are not equipped to handle this problem for many reasons. The reality is that lawsuits filed on behalf of sexual assault victims in nursing homes may be the most effective way to hold a negligent nursing home accountable for allowing these crimes to take place.
If a family member living in an assisted living facility or nursing home in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach Counties is the victim of a sexual assault, contact Boca Raton nursing home abuse attorney Joe Osborne at (561) 293-2600 or fill out this online contact form. We can talk about the situation, how the law could apply in your case and the best legal options to protect your rights and obtain compensation for your loved one’s injuries.