Most instances of involving sexual assault of the elderly in nursing homes are tragic events that we’ll likely never hear a word about. It’s not that these horrors don’t take place with some frequency behind the closed doors of a senior care facility– it’s that many of the victims are particularly vulnerable and there is a tremendous amount of fear over the possible repercussion from both the perpetrator and the facility itself. Yet in other situations, the victim may be unable to communicate due to physical or cognitive difficulties.
As an attorney who has been called upon by families to assist in the investigation and prosecution of civil claims arising from sexual assaults in skilled nursing facilities, I am frequently frustrated by the inherent unfairness in these situations as too frequently facilities and perpetrators alike use their uneven bargaining position to their advantage and either attempt to bully or discredit the allegations made against them.
A female patient at a Texas nursing home who was sexually assaulted by a CNA at the facility could have easily become part of the group of the ignored, but thanks to her quick thinking the perpetrator will likely never have an opportunity to victimize other patients. The Brownwood Bulletin reported recently that police arrested the 45-year-old, male CNA after DNA evidence confirmed allegations originally suggested by and elderly patient at the facility. Anticipating that people would simply not believe her allegations, the woman— secretly preserved the man’s DNA sample on a napkin– during one of his escapades.
After originally denying the allegations, the CNA eventually agreed to provide a DNA sample to authorities– disturbingly the samples were a match.
While I commend the victim for having the courage and foresight to confront this abusive situation head-on, I am particularly saddened by the fact that this woman felt so uncomfortable bringing these allegations to the administrators at the facility that she literally needed to fend for herself.
Legal issues aside, this facility needs to evaluate their system for patients to come forward with issues and concerns without feeling further threatened or discredited by the facility. Hopefully, in the wake of this truly heinous act, this nursing home will recognize that residents need an open line of communication to supervisors to voice concerns in a nonjudgmental way.