Earlier this year, two former Alabama nursing home employees were charged with sexually abusing at least five elderly victims. The charges ranged from first-degree sexual abuse, elder abuse, second-degree voyeurism, public lewdness, harassment, and indecent exposure.

While specific details of the incidents were not shared with public news outlets that reported the story, the charges and number of victims do suggest a serious and depraved pattern of sexual abuse. What many people also found shocking was the fact that the two employees charged with the sex-crimes were female.

Unfortunately, there is still a skewed perception of sexual assault crimes and their perpetrators. Too often, people imagine that sexual assault crimes are committed only by men; however, a study conducted and published in Scientific American finds that sexual victimization perpetrated by women is much more common than previously thought. It is a double standard that is not often recognized by friends, family members, and sometimes even law enforcement.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Goes Largely Unreported

Why is this information important? Partly because the majority of caregivers in nursing home settings are female. This may give family members a false sense of security when it comes to being vigilant for the warning signs of sexual abuse. The belief or attitude that a woman won’t commit a sexual crime may blind family members, allowing sexual abuse of their loved ones to take place in plain sight. A report from the World Health Organization suggests that up to 30 percent of individuals over the age of 65 have been victims of some form of sexual abuse.

However, sexual abuse continues to remain the most unreported form of nursing home abuse. This may suggest that an older individual being abused by a female perpetrator is less likely to report the abuse for fear of ridicule or not being believed. In general, many victims often fail to report sexual abuse because of the stigma and embarrassment still attached to being a victim of a sexual crime. The fear of retaliation from the caregiver or a lack of mental or cognitive ability to articulate the crime are also both common reasons nursing home residents don’t often report cases of abuse.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

While the statistics are frightening, there are some things friends and family members can do to fight back against sexual predators lurking in nursing homes. You can continue to be actively involved in your loved one’s life, even if that interaction is only limited to phone calls. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of sexual abuse, which can include:

  • Bruises in the genital area
  • Unexplained pelvic or hip injuries
  • Irritation or pain in or near genital areas
  • Issues with walking or sitting
  • Bloody sheets or undergarments
  • Depression, anxiety, or agitation
  • Social or emotional withdrawal from family or friends
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual or aggressive behavior
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns

Most importantly, understand that sexual abuse in Alabama nursing homes is not an isolated incident. It can happen in any facility, to any patient, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Any caregiver can be a perpetrator, man or woman. You are always going to be your loved one’s best and most valuable advocate for their health and well-being.

Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP Can Help

If you suspect that a close family member is being abused in any way by nursing home caregivers, contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP for help. We can conduct an investigation and help you get to the bottom of what is going on. Protecting the elderly and their rights always is a priority for us. Contact us today by calling (859) 550-2900 to discuss the circumstances of your potential case.