The team at Nursing Home Abuse Center has become aware of a tragic set of events involving a 65-year-old resident at Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center. KPRC News in Houston reports that the resident suffered sexual assault while living at Willowbrook, and that the staff made a series of grievous errors following the crime.
Nursing Home Resident Sexually Assaulted
65-year-old Rosa Woodard was a resident at Willowbrook when she was sexually assaulted by a male resident. Ms. Woodard had been alone in her room for about two hours when a certified nursing assistant (CNA) noticed that the call light was on outside her room. When the CNA responded, she could never have imagined what she would find inside.
The CNA found a male resident in Ms. Woodard’s room. His pants were down, and his penis was in her mouth. He had his hands on both sides of her head, forcefully moving it back and forth. The CNA observed Ms. Woodard’s undergarments had been removed, and were in a nearby trashcan.
Horrified by what she had witnessed, the CNA ran to the nurses station for help. She returned with a nurse and the Director of Nursing (DON) for the facility. The male resident had left Ms. Woodard’s room. Ms. Woodard was curled in the fetal position, and had her arms tightly clenched to her chest. She had her eyes closed, and would not verbally respond to the staff. The CNA noticed yellow staining on Ms. Woodard, the sheets, and her clothing.
Nursing Home Staff Makes Grievous Errors
Rather than calling 911 to report a crime and preserve evidence, the CNA was instructed to clean up Ms. Woodard and change her sheets. Recognizing that a crime had occurred, the CNA refused to change the sheets. She did, however, clean Ms. Woodard and help her into her wheelchair. Ms. Woodard was wheeled to the nurses station.
Even after these events, Willowbrook staff did not contact the police, nor did they call for an ambulance to take Ms. Woodard to the hospital for evaluation. Instead, when the administrator was notified, her primary concern appears to be contacting the corporate office, which is where her focus was while Ms. Woodard sat propped in a wheelchair following a horrifying assault.
Willowbrook staff also failed to properly notify Ms. Woodard’s daughter, who was her personal representative. When they contacted her, they did not provide details about the sexual assault, but only stated that a male resident was in her room with his penis exposed. It was noted that staff knew the situation would be a “big problem” as Ms. Woodard’s daughter was active in her mother’s care. It was a staff member unrelated to the incident who eventually contacted Ms. Woodard’s daughter with the details of the events.
Once Ms. Woodard’s daughter knew the extent of the assault, she demanded that her mother be taken to the hospital. It was three hours after the sexual assault when an ambulance arrived and Ms. Woodard received the medical attention she needed.
At the hospital, an ER nurse called the police to report the sexual assault. The hospital also gathered important evidence. Willowbrook staff had not spoken with police at the time.
Lawsuit Filed Citing Negligence and Breach of the Standards of Care
In response to the shameful manner in which Willowbrook has handled this situation, a lawsuit has been filed. The lawsuit was filed District Court of Harris County, Texas, Cause No. 2018-90891. The plaintiffs are Byron K. Woodard and Rondia Crenshaw – Ms. Woodard’s children.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are Willowbrook SNF and Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center. The male resident responsible for the sexual assault is not named in the lawsuit. He is facing criminal charges, and is due to appear in court in July 2019.
Nursing Home Blames Victim for Sexual Assault
Houston medical malpractice attorney Charles Brown, who is representing the victim’s family, stated,
“The law acknowledges that nursing home residents have the right to live free of sexual abuse. Ms. Woodard’s family brought suit to hold Willowbrook accountable for violating Ms. Woodard’s rights. But it was the facility’s response to the claim that underscores the corporation’s refusal to accept responsibility for what happened. They have actually blamed her for another resident aggressively forcing her to engage in oral sex.”
In response to the lawsuit being filed, Willowbrook has filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses, which places the blame for what happened to Ms. Woodard on her own shoulders. The answer states that “Plaintiffs’ [sic] injuries and damages, if any, were the result of Rosa D. Woodard’s own acts or omissions.”
Not only is this a shameful response to a horrifying situation, but it is completely untrue, and Willowbrook knows that.
Investigation Finds Victim Unable to Consent
Willowbrook’s claim that Ms. Woodard is responsible for the crime committed against her is preposterous. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) investigated the incident, and found a document stating that “due to her multiple diagnoses, this resident does not have the capacity to consent to sexual activity.”
That document was signed by the administrator – the same administrator who told a police detective that the sexual assault was consensual. The detective questioned how Ms. Woodard could consent when he found her to have a “cognition of zero”. At the time the detective attempted to interview Ms. Woodard, she was not verbally responsive.
A Family Fighting for Justice
Ms. Woodard’s family already suffered a tremendous shock by learning their mother had been sexually assaulted. Now, the nightmare has only gotten worse as they battle a nursing home that is willing to place the blame on the victim, rather than on those truly responsible. Ms. Woodard’s daughter has been quoted saying,
“I placed my mother in Willowbrook believing that she would get the utmost care, attention, and safety. Instead, my mother was raped. And then the facility lied to me about it and blamed her for what happened. They will not get away with this. I will not rest until the facility is held accountable.”
At Nursing Home Abuse Center, we hope that Ms. Woodard’s family does get justice. There is no excuse for blaming a victim of sexual assault for the traumatic events they have suffered. The response and actions of Willowbrook and its staff suggest that their priorities are not focused on residents – as should be the case – but they are more concerned with protecting themselves.
Legal Guidance for Victims and Their Families
If you or someone you love has been abused, neglected, or sexually assaulted in a nursing home, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center. Standing up against companies or corporations can be daunting, but you deserve to be heard. You deserve to have your legal rights upheld. You deserve justice.