There are multiple types of elder abuse that may occur in a Pennsylvania nursing home, but one of the most appalling types is elder sexual abuse. Unfortunately, sexual abuse of elderly people in nursing homes often goes unreported because it often involves victims who suffer from memory loss or other forms of cognitive or physical decline. If an elderly person is the victim of sexual assault in a nursing home, the facility may face both criminal and civil penalties.
Defining Elderly Sexual Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines sexual abuse of an elderly person as any non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person. This may include unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault (such as rape, sodomy and forced nudity) and photographing an elderly person in sexually explicit ways.
What are the signs of sexual abuse of the elderly?
A number of physical and emotional symptoms can be characteristic of elder sexual abuse. These symptoms may include the following.
- Bruising around the genitals or breasts
- Torn or bloodied undergarments
- Difficulty sitting or walking
- Diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Fear of a caregiver
- Agitation or anxiety
- Emotional withdrawal
- Talk of suicide or suicide attempts
- Panic attacks
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Unexplained genital bleeding
If any of the above are noticed, it is important to speak with the elderly person about what may have happened. Often, elderly people fear repercussions if they report the incident and may have trouble talking about it or being honest about it.
How to Report Elder Abuse in a Nursing Home
If you suspect that sexual abuse is occurring, being open and patient with your elderly loved one about the abuse is very important. Regardless of whether or not your loved one is open about the abuse, you should voice your concerns to the proper nursing home authorities as soon as you notice worrisome signs. If you are sure that sexual abuse has occurred or is occurring, you also should report the abuse to legal authorities. Sexual abuse is against the law, and those who sexually abuse others may face criminal charges. In addition to reporting the abuse to the police, you should also consider taking legal action in a civil court.
Filing a Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Medical Malpractice Suit in Civil Court
If you can prove that nursing home sexual abuse has occurred, then you can file a civil tort action for damages. If you can prove that a relationship between the elderly person and the nursing home staff member who performed the abuse existed, that the nursing home staff member acted negligently (sexually abused the elderly victim), and that the negligence lead to physical or psychological harm for the elderly victim, then you have a medical malpractice case for damages. A medical malpractice claim can result in economic and noneconomic damages for your elderly loved one.
How can a nursing home abuse attorney help me?
Sexual abuse is a serious crime and is unacceptable in all situations, especially when the victim is an elderly patient. To help you file a claim for damages following elder sexual abuse, you need a nursing home abuse attorney.
The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC can help you prove the elements of a medical malpractice claim for damages, will gather evidence to back up your claim and can ensure that your claim is filed within the proper time frame, which is two years under Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statute Section 5524.
If you have more questions about how you can protect your elderly loved one when sexual abuse in a nursing home occurs, call our offices today for a free case consultation at 215-642-2335.