Champaign Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Lawyer
While most nursing homes are safe havens where your elderly loved ones can live out their twilight years in peace and comfort, the negligence of the nursing home staff can sometimes allow serious problems of abuse to occur. Older residents who are too weak to resist and may be unable to speak in their own defense are especially vulnerable to abuse from sexual predators.
Seniors with disabilities are also more vulnerable to negligence and deliberately harmful acts. Sadly, some might not even fully understand what is happening to them. In some cases, incidents might occur while they are sleeping or unconscious. The World Health Organization estimates that the overall prevalence of sexual abuse may be as high as nearly 2%.
The Champaign nursing home abuse lawyers of Spiros Law, P.C. are dedicated to defending the dignity of those who are unable to defend themselves and will work tirelessly to obtain compensation for victims of these egregious acts. Contact us at (217) 328-2828 today to speak with a compassionate and capable lawyer.
What Is Sexual Abuse?
American courts have long struggled to determine what sexual abuse is. In fact, the definition varies across states and municipalities. Consequently, cases involving seniors often suffer the same difficulties as those involving younger victims of sexual abuse. One way in which cases involving seniors differ is that there is less focus on whether the victim gave consent, how they did so, and whether it can be withdrawn during the act.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees references the Illinois statutory definitions at the We Care website it launched to tackle sexual misconduct on campus. It states that sexual abuse occurs if the individual committed a sexual act by using force or the threat of force. Sexual abuse may also involve committing a sexual act without the victim’s knowledge. Finally, sexual abuse may also involve sexual acts with a victim who does not understand the nature of the act and, therefore, cannot give his or her consent.
Potential Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Seniors often do not report acts of sexual abuse against themselves. Instead, family members or staff begin to notice changes in their behavior or physical signs that something is amiss. They may notice:
- Bruising in intimate places, such as the neck or breasts
- Bloodstains in underwear or on other intimate pieces of clothing
- Evidence of restraint, especially by unorthodox means, such as rope burns
- Cracked or broken eyeglasses
- Torn clothing
Implications for Sexual Abuse Victims
Your family member might become withdrawn or suffer from depression. He or she might also experience post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incidents. In some cases, your loved one could also have physical consequences that last a lifetime. Sexually transmitted diseases and broken bones are two that commonly occur.
With proper treatment, your loved ones could recover and resume their normal lives. In fact, you might find that they become resistant to moving to a new location because they do not want to lose contact with their friends. This is especially likely in cases where the nursing home was not directly responsible, acted swiftly, and cooperated with the investigation.
Without proper hiring procedures, security measures, and vigilance in observation, a nursing home can become a place where your loved ones are at a heightened risk of sexual abuse. There are various groups of people who may attempt to take advantage of your loved ones, including the following:
- Nursing home staff
- Other residents
- Family members visiting the patient
- Family members visiting other residents
- Contractors completing work at the facility
Complications can also arise when family members, such as a spouse, wish to continue a sexual relationship with their partner who is no longer mentally capable of giving consent. As the caregivers for their residents, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that these violations are not allowed to pass.
The nursing home may also have a legal responsibility to intervene or notify the authorities when these instances occur. Unfortunately, they often feel hesitant to do so if a marital relationship exists.
Responsibilities of the Nursing Home
Nursing homes must comply with federal, state, and local laws. They also provide residents or their families with contractual agreements detailing their obligations. Sometimes, these documents might determine how you pursue legal action. It is important to have your Champaign nursing home sexual abuse lawyer review this and any related documents before making any decisions.
Regardless of what the document states, there are some general obligations most nursing home facilities are bound to carry out:
- Completing background checks of potential hires to determine if individuals have committed criminal offenses that could put residents at risk
- Checking convicted offender registries to see if any current or prospective staff members appear on the list
- Disqualifying prospective staff members and terminating contracts with current staff members convicted of crimes that could put residents at risk
- Screening patients who enter the facilities to ensure they are not violent or repeat offenders
Investigation and Consequences
Nursing homes have a responsibility to investigate all allegations of abuse, no matter how trivial. It also does not matter what the state of mind of the person who makes the complaint is. If nursing homes fail to investigate and do not take other necessary steps to protect their residents, they face consequences at the state and federal levels.
These are some of the most common consequences:
- The facility could become liable for hefty fines to the state or federal government.
- A history of abuse could lead to suspension from Medicaid and Medicare programs.
- Family members may choose to press charges against a specific individual
- Family members may choose to pursue civil claims against the individual or facility
- Law enforcement officers may choose to prosecute even without family involvement
If your loved one experienced sexual abuse, compensation will never undo the damage done. Even so, it is one of the avenues for pursuing justice against the assailant or another responsible party. Because nursing homes have an obligation to provide a safe haven for their residents, the court may hold them responsible even if the act was not carried out by a member of staff.
Many families use the compensation received to move their families out of nursing homes and into better facilities. Some are able to create a care-giving environment at home with live-in professionals. The remedies available will depend on the compensation received. That, in turn, depends on the proof provided, the severity of the case, and what the court ultimately believes. If you do win the case, you may receive compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Therapy and counseling expenses
- Loss of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages for severe cases
It is also worth noting that families do not need to choose between one or the other when it comes to pursuing a criminal or civil case. In some cases, families choose to wait for a conviction before filing a civil suit. The conviction sometimes makes it easier to bring a civil case against the individual. Your Champaign nursing home abuse lawyer will review your case to determine what approach might serve your needs and desired outcome.
If a loved one whom you have entrusted to the care of a nursing home has become a victim of sexual abuse, prompt and forceful legal action may be necessary. The longer you wait to pursue a claim, the more difficult it might be to make a successful case. Evidence becomes more difficult to find, and people become less willing to serve as witnesses. There are also statutes of limitations determining how much time you have to pursue a case. Contact the experienced Champaign nursing home sexual abuse lawyers of Spiros Law, P.C. by calling (217) 328-2828 to learn more about your legal rights.