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. Sexual abuse of nursing home residents can happen when we least expect it. 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. These predators appear to be there to protect the residents and advocate for their rights, but sometimes the unspeakable occurs, and the residents are the ones who suffer.
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. These acts are shameful, and we intend to hold those responsible for such disgusting attacks accountable for their actions. If you believe someone has been a victim of nursing home abuse, we are here to help. Contact us at (217) 328-2828 today to speak with a compassionate and capable lawyer.
According to the Administration of Community Living (ACL), over the past 20 years, there have been roughly 20,000 complaints of nursing home-related sexual abuse. However, there is no national database tracking the full scope of the nursing home-related sexual abuse claims. Females are more susceptible to sexual abuse, as are the patients who may be suffering from dementia-related illnesses.
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seniors differ is that there is less focus on whether the victim gave consent, how they did so, and whether it can be withdrawn during the act.
Our precious elderly family members are often in this class of sexual abuse offenses. At Spiros Law, P.C., we are here to protect our vulnerable population and hold accountable those who took advantage of the weaker state of the nursing home resident. While nursing home abuse may be rare, it does occur. The results are physically and mentally damaging for those involved.
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
There is no one sign of potential sexual abuse. The best advice is to be aware of any new bruising or emotional distress such as depression or anxiety. Reporting your suspicions is always the right thing to do, even if the investigation uncovers no wrongdoing.
Your voice can protect the vulnerable. No one deserves to be mistreated or taken advantage of, especially when they are in a vulnerable state. Our firm is committed to helping those in this unfortunate situation. This is not okay, and your friend or family member deserves an advocate for their legal rights.
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. If you are a concerned family member or friend, you should report signs of bruising on the thighs or private areas. Newly developed depression or anxiety could also be an indication of something inappropriate is occurring at the nursing home facility.
With proper treatment, your loved ones could recover and resume their normal lives. Your loved one deserves the peace of mind that comes from knowing that those around them are truly there to protect them and keep them safe. If your loved one becomes resistant to a move intended to protect them, it may be due to outside circumstances. 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.
Whatever the situation, your loved one deserves to be safe, happy, and cared for. Change is never easy, but doing the right thing should be. At Spiros Law, P.C., we walk with you and your loved one through the legal process so they can feel confident they are not alone and they have someone in their corner protecting their best interests. You and your loved one deserve representation in this matter so that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.
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. These situations are often complicated and uncomfortable to address. It is important to make sure that the nursing home resident and their legal rights are protected. No one deserves to be taken advantage of, especially by someone they trust.
Consent requires actual knowledge. If the party is unaware of what they are doing or what they are agreeing to, it would be hard to argue that consent existed. Your loved one deserves protection and respect. At Spiros Law, P.C., we are ready and able to assess the situation and stand up for their legal rights. These cases often require prompt and aggressive legal action to ensure your loved one is no longer a victim of their situation.
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
As the trusted caretaker, the nursing home owes a duty of care to the residents living at their facilities. Real lives are at stake, and there are real consequences. Your loved ones deserve a safe haven in which to live out their lives in peace and contentment. By taking action now, you may be able to prevent further emotional or physical distress.
Reporting an offense quickly enables the justice system to get to work. Evidence in these situations is often difficult to obtain, as some witnesses will not want to get involved. At Spiros Law, P.C., we are knowledgeable in these types of investigations, and we work diligently to investigate with an eye toward building the case.
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
When an investigation is properly conducted, issues can be identified that once remedied, can help protect residents from continued abuse. If you believe a loved one is suffering from sexual abuse, you should contact Adult Protective Services (APS) to report the suspected abuse. Complaints can be filed against caregivers, medical staff, administrative staff, or other nursing home residents. The most important part is to properly report your suspicions. Your loved one, the vulnerable resident at a nursing home facility, needs your voice to be heard so that they can be protected.
If your loved one experienced sexual abuse, compensation can 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. While financial compensation can never amend the wrongdoing, through this compensation your family will have the ability to search for a new home that better protects the rights of your loved one.
Many families use the compensation received to move their families out of nursing homes and into better facilities because, without this compensation, that may be difficult for some families to afford. This is not a situation people expect to be in, but with effective legal representation, we can help you work through the challenges and get your loved one into a safer environment. Some are able to create a caregiving 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.
This is a difficult situation in uncharted territory for your family. At Spiros Law, P.C., we work with our clients to guide them through the legal issues and help them find a resolution that enables them and their loved ones to get back to living a life where they are safe and protected.
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. Your family member or loved one deserves an advocate for their legal rights.
At Spiros Law, P.C., we are knowledgeable and experienced in cases just like these. No one should take advantage of your loved one. Nursing home residents are some of our vulnerable population, and we have entrusted others to properly care for their physical and emotional needs.
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. When you pursue legal actions quickly, it is often easier to obtain the evidence we need to more fully fight for your loved one’s legal rights. 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.