When a loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you trust that they are being provided the best care possible, and for many that is the reality. Unfortunately, not everyone has this experience. Sexual assault is a known problem in nursing homes. It is important to report nursing home sexual assault any time it is suspected in order to avoid further abuse.
Reporting sexual assault in nursing homes to the proper authorities can make a big difference in what type of actions result. Sometimes, just telling the nursing home is not enough. According to a federal watchdog report released in 2020, California nursing home abuse allegations are not adequately or timely reported.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that among examined incidents of suspected abuse or neglect, 20 percent of facilities were late in reporting the allegations to the California Department of Public Health or never reported them at all.
How to Report Nursing Home Sexual Assault in California
If you are concerned with the immediate health of someone in a California nursing home, you should call 911 to prevent further harm to the person. After doing so, there are several organizations you can contact to report nursing home sexual assault.
California Long-Term Care Ombudsman
A part of the California Department of Aging, the California Long-Term Ombudsman handles reports of abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day programs, and day health centers. All long-term care facilities in California are required to post, in a visible location, the phone number for the local Ombudsman office and the Statewide CRISISline number 1-800-231-4024.
California Adult Protective Services (APS)
The Adult Protective Services organization investigates the abuse of dependent adults and elderly living in private homes, hotels, apartments, or inpatient hospitals. To report abuse, call 1-833-401-0832, and when prompted, enter your 5-digit zip code to be connected to the APS in your county.
Attorney General’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse
The Attorney General’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse investigates and prosecutes elder abuse and Medi-Cal fraud committed by care facility employees, Medi-Cal providers, operators of residential care facilities, and others caring for people using Medi-Cal. You can file a complaint online or by calling 1-800-722-0432.
California Department of Social Services
The California Department of Social Services oversees licensed community care facilities such as assisted living facilities. You can file a complaint against the facility online, by phone at 1-844-538-8766, or by email at email@example.com.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes?
Sexual abuse is largely underreported, which is a fact not exclusive to nursing home abuse. An investigative report by CNN found that more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited for mishandling sexual abuse allegations.
That equals about 1 in every 15 nursing homes across the U.S., and approximately 10 percent of those 1,000 nursing homes had multiple citations. The actual abuser, whether a resident or a staff member, should certainly be held liable for what they have done, but the facility could also be liable for their part in perpetuating the abuse.
Nursing homes have a duty to keep their residents safe. If management knew or should have known that sexual abuse was occurring, they can also be held liable. Nursing home facilities may be held responsible for sexual abuse when:
- The nursing home is understaffed, and the abuse goes undetected, or the perpetrator feels like they will not be caught. Less staff means less supervision.
- Negligent hiring practices allow staff members with a history of abuse to become employed at the facility. Thorough background checks are important to ensuring the safety of residents.
- Nursing homes fail to train their staff to recognize and prevent sexual abuse. Inadequate training can lead to situations where employees are unintentionally ignoring signs and allowing the abuse to continue.
- Facilities fail to adopt policies concerning how to address sexual assault or suspected sexual assault. The staff should understand how to report sexual assault in a nursing home.
If the facility is part of a larger corporation, the corporation could potentially be responsible for the negligence of the individual facility.
Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of nursing home sexual abuse. Survivors may not always have the ability to communicate what happened. Signs can sometimes be mistaken for dementia or other cognitive impairments.
Visiting your loved one often and looking for changes can help you to notice red flags. Indicators of sexual abuse may include:
- Unexplained vaginal or anal irritation or pain,
- Bruises around private parts,
- Bloodied or torn underwear,
- Sudden withdrawal from people and activities,
- Fear of being left alone or of certain places or people,
- Panic attacks or signs of post-traumatic stress, and
- Unexplained sexually transmitted infections.
If your loved one is capable of providing consent and is sexually active, sexually transmitted infections are not always an indicator of abuse. Open conversations about sexual activity may be difficult, but they can help ensure the safety of your loved one.
Nursing home residents who are unable to have conversations about what is going on in their lives are likely at a point where they cannot grant consent. This inability to communicate effectively can often be a draw for sexual predators relying on it to avoid being identified and brought to light.
When Should You Report Nursing Home Sexual Assault?
Reporting sexual assault in nursing homes should be done anytime you reasonably suspect something is happening. You do not have to be responsible for conducting a full investigation. There are organizations tasked with following up on your claims. They just need to be made aware that there could be a problem.
Need Help Reporting Nursing Home Sexual Assault in California? Contact Us
The team at Boucher LLP understands the sensitive nature of sexual assault claims and is here to help our clients seek justice and compensation for what a loved one has endured. We will be with our clients throughout the entire process and serve as their advocate against wrongdoers and liable parties. Contact us to schedule a free case consultation.