Elder sexual abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual contact made to the individual. This abuse can happen to an elderly person who cannot speak or nod to consent or is mentally incapable of consenting. In this case, all advances are considered sexual abuse. It does not matter if the contact is minor or extreme, if it is unwanted then it is sexual abuse. This is perhaps the most heinous crime against an elderly individual. It is also one of the most difficult to talk about or come forward to a trusted individual about. This abuse is both inappropriate and unnecessary. No individual should feel uncomfortable or violated.
Examples of Sexual Abuse
There are several examples of sexual abuse which may occur in nursing homes. These may include:
- Unwanted touching.
- Sexual assault and battery.
- Forced and unexplained nudity.
- Sexual photography.
- Forcing an elderly person to watch sexual conduct.
These events can be scarring for the victim. It can leave them with severe emotional pain and suffering in addition to physical pain.
Those at Risk
Those who are most at risk are residents whose caretakers think they can get away with sexual abuse. Age is a large risk factor. People think that the older someone gets, the less they can protect themselves. Elderly women are also at a higher risk than elderly men are for sexual abuse. Those targeted may include elderly people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The caretakers tend to target their victims depending on their mental capacity. They may also figure that certain people will not remember the events. If a patient with one of these diseases claims sexual abuse it’s easier for the caretaker to say it’s the disease talking. Those who are physically disabled are also at a high risk for sexual abuse. This is because they will be less likely to defend themselves against unwanted advances. In some situations, the victim might consent under threat. A caregiver might threaten to withhold food or medication if they do not consent to the sexual act. This forces the elderly person to comply.
Evidence of Abuse
If you suspect a loved one faces sexually abuse, you should look for physical evidence. Some of this evidence may include:
- Unexplained bruises, specifically in the genital areas, thighs and breasts.
- Unexplained bleeding from the genital area.
- STDs and other sexual infections.
- Torn or stained underwear.
- Pain while urinating.
- Pain when walking or sitting.
The consequences of sexual abuse are not just physical. It is important to check for the emotional signs of abuse as well. These include anxiety, depression, mood swings or anger and withdrawing from others.
Abuse can also happen when nursing homes do not keep up with their safety regulations. Homes should make visitors sign in and have proper security to protect the residents. If they don’t, issues could arise. In other situations, sexual abuse can occur by a family member. This could happen when a family member visits a resident. In some cases, it could happen when a spouse visits a resident. If the nursing home has deemed them mentally unable to consent, then it can mean sexual abuse. In other cases, the sexual abuse can come from other residents. No matter the offender, if a person does not or cannot consent it is sexual abuse. It is up to nursing home staff to protect those who are not capable of protecting themselves from abuse.
If you suspect sexual abused, watch for physical and emotional signs. This can be a difficult topic for someone who is getting abused to discuss, even with a family member. If your loved one has come forth about sexual abuse, be patient and listen to what they are saying. It is important to not discredit what a victim is telling you. Rather, you should do everything you can to help them and get to the bottom of things. This can be a long and emotional process. Many individuals do not come forward about being sexually abused. If you know an elderly person who is sexually abused, it is important to support them.