Sexual abuse is one of the most horrifying types of nursing home abuse. No one imagines that their loved one could be the victim of such a horrible crime in a place that is supposed to provide safety and care. Sadly, sexual abuse in nursing homes happens far more often than any of us would care to imagine.
Sexual Abuse – A Family’s Nightmare
A 50-year-old woman living in a North Seattle assisted living facility began to complain to her family about sexual abuse. The woman reported she was being sexually assaulted by a care provider. A family member reported the alleged assaults to local police on July 2, 2019. Furthermore, after notifying police, a family member installed a hidden camera in the woman’s room.
Tragically, from the time the assaults were reported, the victim suffered an additional four sexual assaults. These assaults were caught on video as a result of the hidden camera. The family promptly turned the evidence over to the police, starting the chain of events that ultimately led to formal charges and an arrest.
The victim and her family say she suffered sexual abuse on multiple occasions between June 1, 2019 and July 3, 2019.
The Accused Perpetrator Denies Abuse
The accused, 29-year-old Nshimiyiana O. Hamzat, is now facing charges of first-degree rape, second-degree rape, and indecent liberties. Prosecutors said he used his position as a nursing assistant at the facility to repeatedly rape the disabled victim.
Incredibly, the accused perpetrator denied the accusations of sexual assault both before and after police showed him video of himself digitally penetrating the victim. He denied any inappropriate sexual contact, suggesting instead that he was “doing patient care.” He was arrested and remains in jail with a bail set at $200,000.
During the time of the alleged sexual assaults, Hamzat continued to perform his duties as a nursing assistant for both the victim and multiple other vulnerable residents.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Sexual abuse in nursing homes is far more common than anyone would care to imagine. Predators sometimes find the low barriers to enter the workforce in a nursing home the perfect opportunity to have access to vulnerable adults. These adults may or may not be capable of reporting the reprehensible behavior.
Sexual abuse can take many forms. Seek help if your loved one in a nursing home reports any of the following signs of abuse:
- Unwanted sexual touching of any kind, especially to the genital area or breasts
- Unwanted penetrative sex of any kind
- Forced or coerced nudity
- Forced or coerced nude or explicit photographs
- Coerced exposure to any sexually explicit material
What are Signs of Sexual Abuse?
If a nursing home resident is suffering sexual abuse, he or she may exhibit physical and emotional signs. The signs of abuse may include:
- Bruises around the thighs and genitals, or on the chest
- Genital infections or venereal disease
- Sudden difficulty sitting or walking
- Torn, stained, or bloodied undergarments
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Suicide attempts
- Panic attacks
- Sudden and unexplained changes in behavior
- Anxiety or fear
The Most Vulnerable Nursing Home Residents
Women and residents with dementia are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. For women, it is mostly a question of proportions. Two-thirds of the nursing home population in America is comprised of women.
Dementia patients are also susceptible to sexual abuse because of their cognitive state. Dementia patients may not fully understand what is happening to them. They also often have diminished communication skills, which makes reporting difficult.
That said, all nursing home residents are vulnerable. Sexual abuse in nursing homes often goes unreported because the victims are deeply ashamed of what they have experienced. There are also many cases where fear of retaliation keeps victims silent.
Who are the Predators in Nursing Homes?
Predators in nursing homes can be almost anyone. Consequently, they are often the very people in charge of caring for residents. Examples of predators include:
- As happened in the North Seattle assisted living facility, the rapist may be an employee of the nursing home.
- Sometimes, the attacker is a complete stranger- someone who got in because of lax security protections, or a even a visitor to the facility.
- Residents often know their abuser. Family, friends, and even other residents have sometimes been charged with sexual assault.
- Resident-to-resident sexual aggression caused by dementia is the most common form of assault nursing home residents suffer.
As an important aside, residents have the right to engage in consensual sexual activity, but both residents must have the capacity to consent. Some residents with cognitive decline or dementia are not capable of consenting, in which case any sexual contact is assault.
What Can you Do if you Suspect Sexual Abuse is Occurring?
If your loved one discloses that they have been sexually assaulted or raped, you should certainly believe them. Then, take action. Never assume that your loved one is paranoid or delusional, even if they suffer from dementia.
If you suspect sexual abuse is occurring, the first thing you should do is to ensure the resident’s safety. Remember, the Seattle family spoke to the police and placed a camera in the room. But still, the victim had to endure four additional assaults before she was finally safe from her attacker.
Next report the abuse to these parties:
- The nursing home administration – It’s unclear whether the victim’s family in this story reported her abuse to the facility. But, if they had, perhaps the administration would have separated the resident from the accused and prevented her subsequent assaults.
- Law enforcement
- Your state’s licensing and certification agency
- Adult Protective Services
Be sure to seek medical attention and make sure your loved one’s daily needs are being met. Take him or her to the hospital and ask them to collect a rape kit. Then, make sure your loved one has a safe place to stay while the investigation continues.
Are You Concerned about Your Loved One in a Nursing Home?
If someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home, you may have grounds to file a nursing home abuse claim against the attacker and/or the facility. You should certainly explore your legal rights and options.
A nursing home abuse claim is a civil lawsuit with the goal of obtaining compensation for your loved one’s harm and suffering. A civil lawsuit is independent of any criminal charges that may result from the situation.
Contact Nursing Home Abuse Center to learn more about your options. To schedule a free consultation with one of our nursing home abuse lawyers, call 1-800-416-4783. You can also request a consultation through our online form.