Residential Care Facility Sexual Assault Lawyer
When you place a loved one in a residential care facility or nursing home, you are putting your trust in that facility to care for your loved one in a responsible, effective manner. This is why allegations of molestation or sexual assault in a residential care facility or nursing home constitute both a violation of the law and a breach of your trust.
Victims of molestation or sexual assault in residential care facilities and nursing homes have legal rights to hold these institutions accountable for their negligence. In some cases, sexual abuse is perpetrated by a home health care aide caring for patients in their own homes. No matter the situation, you should reach out to a Sacramento residential care facility sexual assault attorney to discuss your legal options.What is Sexual Abuse or Assault at a Residential Care Facility?
Sexual assault is generally defined as non-consensual sexual contact. This includes unwanted or inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, rape, sexual coercion, sodomy and/or any sexually-explicit photographing. It can include situations where the resident was forced, coerced, tricked, or manipulated into engaging in unwanted sexual contact and where the resident is too ill or mentally incapacitated to consent. A nursing home resident can be sexually abused by a staff member, another resident, a stranger, or a family member. And do not assume that nursing home abuse and residential care sexual abuse is confined to elderly patients. In fact, many residential care facilities also are home to many at-risk and autistic children and also mentally and physically disabled adults. Molestation can and does occur.Nursing Home Sexual Assaults and Abuse Data
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than 30 percent of all nursing homes in the United States are involved in some form of resident abuse and more than 50 percent of nursing homes and assisted care facilities are short-staffed, which exposes residents to abusive or negligent care.
Sexual predators focus on elderly patients, children and the disabled because they are often defenseless and may be easily tricked. There are numerous reports of staff members claiming that they are conducting "routine physicals" or "regular check-ups" when they are actually engaging in sexual assaults and molestation.Types of Sexual Assaults
It is important to understand that nursing home sexual abuse is not confined to a patient being abused by a staff member. There are myriad situations involving different individuals that may give rise to a sexual abuse lawsuit against the nursing home or residential care facility.
- Sexual assault or molestation by another resident – Many nursing homes and residential care facilities are co-ed. This type of setting may give rise to the sexual abuse of one resident by another. Residents who are mentally incapacitated or physically disabled are often targeted for abuse by another resident who knows the resident is suffering from a mental or physical handicap. If a nursing home or residential care facility fails to properly monitor you, the lack of oversight could constitute negligence on the part of the facility.
- Sexual assault by a stranger – Sexual abuse by a stranger often occurs because the nursing home lacks proper security protocols and allows strangers to enter the facility without supervision or checking in at the front desk. Strangers can also enter the facility when nursing home employees step outside to take a break and fail to lock the door when they re-enter. If a nursing home resident is sexually abused by a stranger who gained access to the facility under these circumstances, the nursing home or residential care facility may be liable for negligence.
- Sexual assault by a family member – When someone is placed in a nursing home, the resident's spouse or significant other may attempt to engage in sexual conduct at the facility. If the contact is not consensual, or the resident lacks the mental capacity to consent, sexual abuse has occurred. In these situations, nursing home staff members may fail to report the incident because of the legal relationship between the couple, and allow the abuse to continue. Under these circumstances, the nursing home may be liable for negligence.
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused sexually or has suffered molestation by facility staff or others, here are some indicators of abuse. The warning signs can be both physical and behavioral:
- Bruises on inner thighs
- Bruising around the genital area
- Anal or genital pain, bleeding, or irritation
- Bloody undergarments
- Your loved one is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Difficulty sitting or walking that had not been experienced before
- Trauma to the pelvis
- Extreme agitation
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Panic attacks
- Suicide attempts
In addition to the situations described above, a common form of sexual abuse involves an employee taking advantage of a resident or patient. When a facility fails to take the time to effectively screen an employee who has a history of sexual assault and that employee abuses a resident, the facility can be held liable for negligence.
Sexual abuse by a residential care facility staff member can also occur when the facility fails to properly supervise employees. This may be caused by understaffing or poor training. When a nursing home fails to properly supervise employees or properly train employees on how to identify sexual abuse and abuse occurs, the facility can be held responsible.
California law provides that an employer has a duty to investigate the background of employees to determine they are fit for a particular position. A hospital is also required to remain informed of the employee's’ fitness for the position. This means that if a hospital is informed of alleged abuse and does nothing, the hospital can be held liable for the harm caused by that inaction.
The legal elements necessary to prove a negligent hiring claim against a nursing home or residential care facility includes:
- The employer (i.e. the nursing home or residential care facility) had a duty to hire and monitor employees;
- The employer knew or should have known that the employee posed a safety risk to residents and other individuals;
- The employer breached the duty;
- The employer’s breach of duty caused harm to you or a loved one
Sexual assaults cause both bodily harm and emotional harm. The unfortunate truth is that physical injuries generally heal with time, but the emotional damage associated with sexual abuse may never fully heal and can affect someone for years. In fact, studies show that victims of sexual abuse are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely contemplate suicide, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. As you can see, the toll an abuse incident takes on someone can be devastating. Abuse of an elderly loved one can traumatize your loved one for the remainder of their days and effectively rob them of the opportunity to enjoy their "golden years."Example of Nursing Home Sexual Assault Cases
Do not be afraid to stand up and take legal action against a negligent nursing home or residential care facility. Many others in similar situations have had success in the civil justice system. For example, a jury recently decided against Kindred Healthcare and awarded $2 million to a resident in a sexual abuse case. The 87-year-old resident was staying at a Kindred facility in Massachusetts. The resident sustained genital bruising and bleeding from an assault, according to court documents. The nursing home tried to claim that the injuries were sustained in a fall, but medical experts for the plaintiff indicated that those injuries were more likely caused by a sexual assault.
To achieve this type of verdict, you need to have an experienced attorney on your side ready to fight for you. Who you have on your side makes a major difference in the potential outcome of your case. You need an attorney who can gather and analyze all of the evidence and effectively present that evidence to a jury so they are convinced that the nursing home or residential care facility was responsible for your harms and losses.
The video below reports about a sexual assault on a patient who had been in a vegetative state for years.Sacramento Sexual Assault Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento sexual assault lawyer. If a loved one has been sexually assaulted at a care facility or nursing home, please give me a call at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 for free, friendly advice.
During the free consultation, we’ll discuss the facts of your case and decide whether it makes sense to move forward.
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.20.19]