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A Shocking Form of Elder Abuse - Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

In recent decades, our society has become increasingly aware of the dangers of child sexual abuse. We believe strongly in preventing child sexual abuse, stopping it when it does occur, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. At the same time, we know that sexual abuse is not confined to children. The elderly, especially those suffering from cognitive impairments, are increasingly being targeted. Our Panama City elder abuse attorney represents the victims of nursing home sexual abuse and helps them escape this horrible crime.

"It Happened Right There": A Serial Offender Abuses Nursing Home Patient

A man was recently convicted of criminal offenses in connection with a chilling story out of Brunswick, Maine that has a link back to Florida. According toNBC's WLBZ, sometime prior to 2006 a family made a difficult decision, one many families have wrestled with, as they looked for the best way to care for a grandfather. Legally blind and partially deaf, the 89 year-old man's health was declining and his thoughts were becoming increasing clouded by age-related dementia. The family chose a nursing home close to family members.

A granddaughter who visited her grandfather in the Brunswick home detailed some of what followed. She recalls him speaking of sexual acts occurring in the home. He'd use old-fashioned terms to describe a man taking sexual favors from him, once pointing towards the bathroom and saying "It did it happened. It happened right there last night." Initially, the granddaughter attributed the comments to her grandfather's declining health and growing dementia. It was months before an employee caught a man in the act of abusing the nursing home resident. The perpetrator has since been convicted of sexual abuse.

One Perpetrator's Record and an Expanded Understanding of Sexual Abuse

After his arrest, police learned the attacker had a record including convictions for assault and battery in 1963 and criminal trespass in 1994. He also had a 1985 conviction for lewd and lascivious behavior in Largo, Florida. It seems likely that in the recent nursing home case, the convict, a man in his 70s, specifically targeted victims whose reports would not be considered reliable or who couldn't report at all.

The experience led the victim's granddaughter to partner with government authorities to re-write Maine's legal definition of a sex offender. Previously, people were only required to register as a sex offender if they harmed someone age 18 or younger. Now Maine law also requires registration if the victim was dependent on other's for care. Here in Florida, the sex offender registry includes those convicted of "Lewd/lascivious offense committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled adult."

Our understanding of sexual abuse must evolve. Abuse of children is a major concern, but they are not the only victims. We have been taught that we should never dismiss a child's report of sexual abuse. That is an important lesson, but it must be broadened. We should never dismiss ANYONE's report of abuse, especially where the abuser holds power over the victim. More information on elder abuse is available via the National Center on Elder Abuse. In addition to providing civil representation, our firm can also help point victims and their families in the direction of local resources.

The Need for Civil Suits in Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Cases

Attorney Pittman, a Panama City nursing home abuse lawyer, works with victims and their loved ones to obtain monetary damages in civil court. Why file a civil elder abuse suit? In some cases, the lower standard of proof might mean a civil claim succeeds where a criminal claim failed, especially if a victim's testimony is called into question due to age-related declines. In that case, a civil verdict can help a victim escape the abuser. Even if there is a criminal conviction, having the resources to move means escaping the traumatic memories at the scene of abuse. Monetary damages can also provide treatment for the psychological and physical scars left behind by an abuser. Call to discuss the role we can play in helping put an end to senior sexual abuse.

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