Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Lawyers
The nursing home sexual abuse lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP have seen how nursing home sexual abuse devastates its vulnerable victims. Nursing home sexual harassment and abuse is far more common than some might think, and is becoming even more frequent. Our nursing home abuse attorneys have worked for over 15 years to ensure that nursing homes that fail to protect residents from sexual predators are held accountable for the nursing home sexual abuse injuries these criminals inflict on nursing home patients.
The personal injury lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over nursing home sexual abuse. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a nursing home sexual abuse lawsuit.
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse a Growing Problem
As the corporations that own nursing homes look to cut costs, they have reduced wages and staff at their facilities. Understaffing makes it far easier for the activities of sexual predators to go unnoticed. Low pay means that, in some cases, nursing homes end up attracting unscrupulous individuals. Very often, nursing home management may not perform background checks on prospective employees unless required by law to do so. The nursing home abuse lawyers at our firm have seen how the lack of background checks, understaffing, and poor pay offered to nursing home staff have allowed sexual predators to gain employment in nursing homes and other long term care facilities, resulting in cases of nursing home sexual assault.
Nursing Home Sexual Assault
According to a 1996 Medicaid Fraud Report, 10 percent of all nursing home physical abuse cases are of a sexual nature. Sexual elder abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a nursing home resident. Sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent is also considered sexual elder abuse.
Nursing home residents are known to have been sexually victimized by both staff and other residents. Nursing home sexual assault or abuse nearly always occurs alongside other forms of nursing home abuse. Sexual abuse is often a sign that nursing home management is neglecting its residents in many other ways.
Some reports of alleged sexual abuse arise from civil and criminal court documents that were filed against nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and staff. Other incidents are hidden in detailed reports filed by state health investigators, according to CNN.
Often, nursing home sexual abuse or assault goes undetected. Sadly, the physical and cognitive impairments common among nursing home residents make it impossible for them to fight off sexual assailants or report sexual abuse. In other cases, sexual predators are able to intimidate their vulnerable victims into silence. In still other instances, nursing home sexual abuse victims are too embarrassed to come forward with details of what they have been forced to endure. For this reason, the families of victims must become educated about nursing home sexual abuse.
Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse and Harassment
Nursing home sexual abuse may take many forms. Forced nudity, or forcing a nursing home resident to engage in taking pornographic pictures or looking at pornography are forms of sexual abuse. Forcing a nursing home resident to listen to inappropriate jokes or stories, especially if the intent is to humiliate the resident, is abusive. Unwanted sexual touching (including whipping, pinching, punching, or kissing) by staff to a resident is sexual abuse. Forcing one resident to inappropriately touch or kiss another resident's body is sexual abuse. Any form of rape or forced sexual intercourse is sexual abuse.
There are some physical signs of sexual abuse of which anyone with a loved one in a nursing home should be aware. Some signs include:
- Bruising around the breasts
- Bruising on the upper abdomen
- Bruising on the inner thighs
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Bleeding from the anus
- Presence of a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Trouble walking
- Discomfort when sitting
- Irritation or itching in genitals.
A Cross-Section of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Cases
A North Carolina nursing home resident who weighed 76 pounds and was significantly cognitively impaired requiring assistance with basic daily tasks reported that a nursing aide had pushed her head to him, forcing her to give him oral sex, CNN reported.
The third time a resident of a Texas nursing home was raped by a nurse, the alleged rapist ejaculated in the victim's mouth and on her breasts. Once she was safe, she spit the semen into her bra, keeping the unwashed bra for three weeks, according to CNN. She told state investigators, "That's all I have."
A woman in an Iowa facility who required a walker and who was unable to bathe herself reported that a nursing aide sexually assaulted her while she was showering. The facility never advised authorities as the aide left the country.
An 88-year-old woman in California who only ever had sex with her husband of nearly 70 years reported awaking in her bed at the nursing home with her catheter removed and her bed wet. She remembered seeing an unknown male nursing assistant staring at her naked body and she remembered him saying that, "This is why I love my job," she told police. Soon after, she complained of severe vaginal pain and what she described as "oozing blisters," according to CNN. The woman was diagnosed with incurable genital herpes and the identity of the alleged perpetrator remains unknown.
Minnesota Nursing Home Kept Sexual Predator on Staff, Despite Numerous Reports
A CNN investigation published in February 2017 involved six women, three nursing homes, and one man accused of rape and abuse. Luis Gomez, a nursing aide, is being accused of being a serial sexual abuser who allegedly moved around facilities to sexually abuse nursing home residents. For his part, he asserts he is innocent. Luis Gomez appeared to many to be the perfect nursing aide. He loved his job and went the distance for residents in his care. But now a different image has emerged: Gomez, who insists he is innocent, is accused of being a serial abuser -- moving from facility to facility despite a history of allegations against him. CNN documents his trail. In one case, Luis Gomez, a nursing assistant in North Carolina continued working for years despite a number of alleged sexual abuse reports. When a bold nurse reported the abuse to police Gomez, 58, was finally dismissed and arrested and remains in jail awaiting trial.
In another case, a daughter describes how her mother was raped when she was 88 years old and a nursing home resident.
While it is impossible to determine exactly how many nursing home residents have been sexually abused, an exclusive CNN review of state and federal data, as well as interviews with experts, regulators, and victims' families has found that sexual assault in nursing homes is much more widespread than believed. CNN also discovered that, often, nursing homes and government officials charged with overseeing nursing home facilities are not doing much, if anything, to stop the abuse.
CNN notes that, in some cases, negligence is the culprit and sometimes victims are unable to recall events or identify perpetrators. In the cases that the media outlet reviewed, "victims and their families were failed at every stage." For example, nursing homes did not quickly investigate and report allegations because they either did not believe victims or attempted to hide accusations. Police often saw claims as unlikely given victims' potentially failing memories or confused allegations. State regulators did not flag trends of ongoing allegations against a caregiver given "the high bar set for substantiating abuse." CNN notes that these systemic failures make it difficult for victims to receive justice and simplifies perpetrators ability to commit sex crimes against the elderly and helpless.
The daughter of a women who was a nursing home resident spoke in court at the 2015 sentencing of a male nursing assistant, George Kpingbah, who was convicted of raping her mother. She said, in part that, "At 83 years old, unable to speak, unable to fight back, she was even more vulnerable than she was as a little girl fleeing her homeland. In fact, she was as vulnerable as an infant when she was raped. The dignity which she always displayed during her life, which was already being assaulted so unrelentingly by Alzheimer's disease, was dealt a final devastating blow by this man." A fellow caregiver saw Kpingbah in the 83-year-old woman's room at 4:30 a.m. on December 18, 2014, at the Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis. He described seeing a bare leg was on each side of the man's hips and the woman's adult diaper open on the bed. When the witness saw the 76-year-old aide thrusting back and forth, she said she was aware that a sexual assault was occurring.
Kpingbah "pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a mentally impaired or helpless victim and was sentenced to eight years in prison," according to CNN. During the sentencing, the judge told him that he did more than devastate the lives of his victim and her family, he also betrayed the trust given to caregivers with such intimate access to the sick and elderly, CNN wrote. Judge Elizabeth Cutter also said "You violated (a) position of authority, a position of trust…. The ramifications of what you did are so far-reaching…. It also affected everyone in that facility. Everyone who stays in that facility. Everyone who works at that facility. It affects everyone who has to place a loved one in a facility."
Despite Kpingbah's apologies, assurances this was his one "unspeakable act," and that he intended on bringing his Bible with him to prison in an effort for leniency, the CNN investigation discovered court documents. Prosecutors confirmed this was not the first time Kpingbah was investigated over sexual assault allegations. In fact, Kpingbah was suspended three times while Walker Methodist officials investigated ongoing accusations of sexual abuse at the facility, including at least two in which he was the main suspect. The first complaint was 2008. Police investigated allegations that Kpingbah engaged in sexual intercourse with a 65-year-old who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In the second instance, an 83-year-old woman who is blind and deaf alleged that she was raped multiple times and always at midnight. Police investigated her report just seven months before the other woman was assaulted. She could not identify her assailant; however, Walker Methodist suspended Kpingbah with other male staffers who were on duty during the nights of the alleged assaults.
Neither Walker Methodist nor the state substantiated the allegations; however, the facility kept Kpingbah working on the overnight shift until he was caught in the act in December 2014. The Minnesota Department of Health found that Walker-Methodist acted immediately to ensure the resident's safety, immediately removing Kpingbah and noting that the nursing home had provided Kpingbah with mandated abuse training. Walker-Methodist was not cited for any wrongdoing; only Kpingbah was held accountable.
CNN reached out to family members of other residents who had previously reported sexual assaults while residents at Walker Methodist and during the time Kpingbah worked there. Officials were allegedly quick to dismiss the residents' claims as either " hallucinations or fantasies," according to the investigation; however the son of the first alleged victim, who learned of Kpingbah's rape conviction from CNN said, "Walker Methodist certainly failed to handle this appropriately with my mother and other residents, and there should be consequences."
The son of another alleged victim, who had accused an unknown perpetrator, told CNN that he was angered that he was never advised that a trend of complaints had come out against a single caregiver. He said that, had he been aware of the pattern, he would have taken his mother's report of abuse more seriously and would not have trusted Walker Methodist.
Some Nursing Home Abuse Involves Multiple Perpetrators
Upon occasion, sexual abuse occurs with multiple perpetrators and, sometimes, against male residents. For example, over the course of months, a group of male nursing aides at a California facility abused five male residents. The nursing aide groups shot videos and took photographs, which they shared with staff. One of the victims was a 56-year-old man diagnosed with cerebral palsy who was paraded around with no clothes on. Another victim, an elderly man with paralysis and speech challenges was pinched on his nipples and penis and forced to eat feces out of his adult diapers, according to CNN. He feared for his life and while the aides lost their certifications, the Disability Rights California investigation revealed that many of the former aides never faced charges.
Another group of nursing aides who were teenagers in Albert Lea, Minnesota, abused some 15 male and female residents. Many of the residents abused were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Allegedly, the female aides "struck, poked, and rubbed the residents and touched their breasts," according to CNN. The aides inserted their fingers into one resident's rectum, rubbed residents' crotches, and laughed at them. In one situation, an aide pulled down her own pants and sat on a female resident's lap while she humped and grouped the elderly woman. "I was basically appalled by the callous disregard for human decency," a judge later said. Two of the then-18-year-old abusers were convicted of disorderly conduct by a caregiver and served 42 days in jail. The other teens were tried in juvenile court, facing no jail time.
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Not Tracked
Despite the number of nursing home abuses that are described in government reports, no complete, national data is in place on the number of cases of sexual abuse that have been reported in nursing home facilities.
State health investigators review abuse reported at nursing homes and assisted living facilities by the facilities or flagged reports to the state by witnesses, family members, or victims. State officials usually conduct investigations involving alleged nursing home abuse. The state also conducts routine inspections on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates over 15,000 facilities receiving government reimbursements that cover care for many of the patients, noted CNN. Health agencies and the federal government use the information to rate facilities and issue financial penalties for the most severe offenders.
CNN Investigation Reveals Widespread Sexual Abuse
As part of its investigation, CNN surveyed health departments and other agencies that oversee long-term care facilities in all 50 states. Of the states able to provide some data, the responses varied broadly.
Illinois indicated 386 allegations of sexual abuse of nursing home residents were recorded since 2013; 201 involved a caretaker and 59 were considered substantiated. Hawaii indicated that eight allegations of sexual abuse were investigated between 2011 and 2015; five involved a caregiver. In Texas, 11 of the 251 complaints of sexual abuse complaints in fiscal year 2015 were deemed substantiated while Wisconsin reported that it did not have a substantiated report in five years. CNN points out that when a state provides an additional breakdown of the number of substantiated allegations, the results reveal that very few of these accusation are proven and this occurs for a variety of reasons: Challenges working with aging victims, evidence destruction, and lax probes by facilities and regulators.
Most states were unable to indicate how often abuse investigations that involved allegations of sexual abuse occurred because sexual abuse allegations are not separated from other forms of abuse. CNN noted that the federal government does not "specifically" track sexual allegations.
Since 2000, over 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported in long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, according to the Administration for Community Living, which maintains federal data. Agency officials point out that the figure only captures those cases in which state long-term care ombudsmen (advocates for facility residents) were involved in resolving reports.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services places sexual allegations into a category includes all types of abuse and indicates that it does this as it takes all abuse reports seriously. Having to review each case individually, CNN pointed out that the report revealed that 226 cases of sexual abuse were substantiated between 2010 and 2015. About 60 percent of these resulted in fines, which totaled more than $9 million. Only 16 facilities were permanently cut off from Medicare and Medicaid funding. The federal government only regulates nursing homes; therefore, the review excluded assisted living facilities. Also, statistics do not take into consideration instances in which nursing homes have been cited for inappropriately handling sexual abuse allegations, including by covering up reports and messing up reports.
CNN conducted its own detailed review utilizing inspection reports filed from 2013 to 2016 and found that the federal government "cited over 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse at their facilities." This figures= includes some cases provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Some 100 facilities were cited multiple times in the same period. Also, complaints and allegations that do not lead to a citation, a so-called "deficiency," are also not included in Medicare reports. And, national research revealed many rape victims do not typically report their assaults, which means that numbers used represent a small amount of true alleged sexual abuse incidents in nursing homes nationwide.
Of what was reviewed, approximately one-quarter of the cases were allegedly perpetuated by aides, nurses, and staff; a small percentage involved visitors, family, or unknown assailants. Accusations involving caregivers and other workers were often significantly more serious and involved forced intercourse, oral sex, and digital penetration, for example, according to CNN.
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Legal Help
Nursing home sexual abuse is appalling, and the victims of nursing home sexual abuse must be treated with sensitivity, dignity, and compassion. The nursing home sexual abuse attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP will always treat the victims of nursing home abuse and their families with the respect they deserve. If you suspect a loved one has been the victim of nursing home sexual abuse or any other form of nursing home neglect or abuse, they have valuable legal rights. Please fill out our online form for a free consultation from a qualified nursing home abuse attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).