A nursing home resident at the Life Care Center in Hilton Head, South Carolina reported that she was sexually assaulted by a staff member at the facility. Because of the nature of this case, the investigating authorities have not released the victims age or other information.
The resident told a nurse that she had been sexually assaulted during the night. The nurse reported it and the Life Care Center then reported it to the Sheriff’s Department and the South Caroline Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Sometimes when a nursing home cuts corners—putting its profits over resident safety—by skipping background checks, not having sufficient staff to properly manage and monitor staff and resident safety, and hires the lowest-wage employees who cannot get better jobs, resident abuse can result. Given that nursing home staff, especially the lowest-paid staff, can have a lot of intimate contact with residents (bathing, dressing and undressing, helping go to the bathroom, hygiene, etc.), there is an opportunity for sexual abuse.
The suspect in the case has been identified by the Life Care Center. The person was placed under “suspension” according to the article. The article reports the following regarding a statement from the nursing home:
An emailed statement from the Life Care Center executive director Lynn Kilpatrick said the nursing home is “fully cooperating with the local police department in the investigation of an allegation of sexual abuse. Due to the ongoing investigation, we cannot provide further information.”
Although the nursing home is cooperating, sexual assaults in nursing homes are preventable and the facility should be held completely accountable for this despicable behavior.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Loved ones need to pay close attention to the cues of nursing home residents, especially if they cannot talk or lack the mental capacity to fully communicate.
Common signs of sexual abuse include:
- New troubles with walking or standing, not explained by medical conditions
- Bruising, scratches, or rashes on arms, inner thighs, breasts, or other areas
- Genital bleeding, infection, or irritation, of the vagina or rectum
- Genital scarring or abrasions
- Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease / STD
- Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
- New panic, fear, or anxiety, especially around particular residents or staff
- Social withdrawal, such as from activities or groups
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Depression, anxiety, paranoia
- Resentment and anger
- Sleeping problems
Some of these—especially depression, anxiety, and other psycho-social changes—may be caused by other issues, including physical abuse or mental decline. But they merit follow-up questions with your loved one, staff, the director of nursing or administrator, or even a lawyer.
Reporting Sexual Abuse
If a loved one in a nursing home is sexually abused, report the assault to the police. No matter what a nursing home administrator tells you about their own investigation, understand they work for the nursing home that hired the rapist. They have an interest in protecting the nursing home.
While nursing homes should have their own policy for addressing assault allegations—including nursing home rape or sexual assault—internally, this is not a criminal proceeding, and likely the most they can do is fire the person and report them to the police. It is critical family members get police involved, rather than run the risk of a nursing home stalling when the abuse is reported to police authorities (if at all).
Investigation Could Take Weeks
According to the article, the Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying that this investigation could take weeks. This is shocking and assumes that the nursing home and staff will be cooperative.
The reality is that nursing homes know their residents are at significant risk of sexual assault. When they nonetheless put profits over safety by paying low wages, allowing frequent employee turnover, utilizing poor pre-hiring employee screening, and having inadequate monitoring of current employees, sexual assault becomes an inevitable outcome. It is only a matter of when.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault at a nursing home, please contact me and I will launch an investigation. My team and I will assist you get the justice you or your loved one deserve. This is NEVER okay, and should be taken very, very seriously. It is disgusting behavior and the nursing homes, their staff, and administration need to be held accountable. You can contact me here in confidentiality, I want to help you, and will the best I can to hold everyone involved accountable.
You can read more about nursing home sexual assaults here.
You can access the above mentioned article here.