We have always known that sexual assault in nursing homes was an under-reported crime. Sexual assault in general isn’t reported nearly as often as it occurs, for a myriad of reasons, and abuse that occurs in nursing homes is even more hidden because victims often cannot explain what happened or even identify their attacker. But of course, this is part of the reason why it’s so pervasive.
CNN Investigations recently launched an in-depth analysis, combing through thousands of reports and interviewing families, regulators, and nursing home administrators.
It was firstly noted that there have been 16,000 complaints of sexual assault or sexual abuse lodged against long-term care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living facilities) since 2000. But even federal regulators have known this figure doesn’t capture all of the complaints. It only involves those wherein a state’s long-term care ombudsman got involved. It also doesn’t factor in the reality that most assaults aren’t reported at all.
Per the request of CNN reporters, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services conducted a specialized search of its data, using keywords that would turn up reports for sexual assault. That search indicated 226 citations of nursing homes for failures to protect residents from substantiated claims of sexual abuse between 2010 and 2015. Only a little more than half of those cases resulted in actual fines, and only 16 percent lost their federal funding.
However, the reporters noted this only revealed part of the story because it didn’t show the many ways nursing homes were cited for mishandling sex abuse allegations in other ways, such as with cover-ups or inadequate investigations. So reporters then looked at inspections reports from 2013 through 2016, using those same kinds of sex-related keywords, and dug into the findings independently. That’s when they found more than 1,000 nursing homes were cited for improperly handling or failing to prevent cases of sexual abuse, rape, and sexual assault within their facilities. Nearly 100 of these facilities were cited on multiple occasions.
The anecdotal evidence of this nursing home abuse the reporters uncovered was sickening. In some cases – including one in North Carolina – perpetrators would commit assault after assault until they were finally stopped.
The reporters detailed a series of cases out of Waynesville, North Carolina, less than an hour from Asheville, in which a man reportedly sexually assaulted six women at three nursing homes before he was finally arrested. In one case, a victim interviewed by CNN revealed that it took her weeks to come forward. And when she did, the nursing home director not only refused to believe her but had her transported to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. When she was ultimately brought back to the nursing home, she fled rather than face further assault.
As it turned out, the man she accused of raping her had been accused of similar acts before. And sadly, she wouldn’t be the last. The worker was employed at four nursing homes over the course of 15 years. However, it wasn’t until a nurse called police in February 2016 that he was arrested. A nurse called local police to report a sexual assault that was reported to her by a resident. That same resident had told another nurse the day before, and that nurse informed the director, who promised she would “take care of it.” But the director never called police. She didn’t call a doctor. She didn’t notify the alleged victim’s family. The accused aide wasn’t even taken off his regular shifts.
However, the nurse who reported the incident knew the aide had been accused before, but nothing happened. She refused to turn a blind eye, even if it cost her a job.
It turned out three other residents at the facility had similar accounts, some of which had allegedly been previously reported to nursing home administrators but ignored.
Previous complaints against the suspect at two other nursing homes were “unsubstantiated.” But clearly, there was a pattern.
Worse, CNN reported that this case was “far from an anomaly.” There were numerous examples given of caregivers continuing to work with elderly and vulnerable residents, despite repeated red flags and actual complaints.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
SIX WOMEN.THREE NURSING HOMES.AND THE MAN ACCUSED OF RAPE AND ABUSE, Feb. 22, 2017, By Blake Ellis, CNN
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