Elder sexual abuse happens when caregivers and others violate the trust that they are given to take care of an elderly person. Abusers may abuse elderly people in nursing homes because they believe that they are vulnerable and that nobody cares or will notice. Sometimes the elderly are isolated from family and suffer from dementia or psychiatric disabilities that make it less likely that they will be believed. If you have a loved one in an Alabama nursing home, you should be alert to signs of sexual abuse and contact Foley nursing home negligence lawyer Whit A. Thomas to understand your options.Holding a Nursing Home Accountable for Sexual Abuse
Often, sexual abuse that occurs in nursing homes is perpetrated by the primary caregiver. Although much of reported sexual abuse happens in nursing homes, only a small percentage of victims of elder abuse actually report it to authorities. The potential abuser usually feels that they can abuse someone without getting punished or facing repercussions. Victims of sexual abuse are more often elderly women than elderly men.
Elder sexual abuse involves starting sexual or physical contact with an elderly person when the sexual or physical contact is not wanted and is not consensual. Abuse can include making contact with an elderly person who is not able to provide consent. Sexual abuse can include rape, assault and battery, unwanted touching, sexual photography, and forced nudity. If the contact is sexual in nature and nonconsensual, it is sexual abuse.
The nursing home residents who are most at risk of sexual abuse are those with Alzheimer's, dementia, or another mental impairment. An abuser may assume that nobody will believe these especially vulnerable victims. Others who are more vulnerable are those who are socially isolated from their family and loved ones. Signs of abuse can include unexplained STDs and infections, bruises in the genital areas, unexplained vaginal bleeding, blood-stained or torn clothes, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, agitation, fear around a caregiver, or difficulty sitting or walking. If you suspect sexual abuse, you should consult an experienced attorney.
Both federal and state laws regulate nursing homes with regard to care. It may be possible to pursue damages for sexual abuse under the Alabama Medical Liability Act. The law applies in any lawsuit for injury, damages, or a wrongful death, whether it sounds in tort or in contract, against a health care provider for a breach of the standard of care. Under this law, your lawyer will need to retain an expert to establish the professional standard of care and to opine on whether it was breached.
Sexual abuse is intentional, and it may be possible to allege assault and battery against the abuser. Assault and battery occurs when there is any touching of a person or their clothes, whether in anger or in a hostile way. Sometimes employers can be held liable for an employee's actions done in furtherance of their employment, but they cannot be held liable for criminal acts of their employees unless they knew or had reason to know that a criminal act was going to occur on the premises. Moreover, the Alabama Supreme Court has held in a case involving sexual abuse by a hospital employee that when there is a claim of medical negligence stemming from a hospital's alleged failure to protect the plaintiffs from harm and its negligent or wanton hiring, training, supervision, and retention of an abusive employee, this case must be pursued according to the mandate of the Alabama Medical Liability Act. Sexual abuse claims against a nursing home also must follow the requirements dictated by the Alabama Medical Liability Act.Meet with a Foley Attorney to Discuss a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
Dedicated attorney Whit A. Thomas can look at the facts surrounding possible sexual abuse and fight for your rights. Our firm prides itself on keeping an open line of communication with a client at every turn in their case, whether it is based on sexual or physical abuse or on malnutrition or another form of negligence. We proudly represent nursing home residents and their families throughout Southern Alabama, including in Foley, Summerdale, Robertsdale, Elberta, Lillian, Loxley, Fairhope, Daphne, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach, as well as other communities throughout Baldwin, Mobile, Escambia, and Monroe Counties. Call (251) 943-9330 or contact us through our online form.