Sexual assaults in nursing homes is reportedly a widespread and largely under-reported problem, according to a recent investigation by reporters at CNN. Of course, sexual crimes tend to be under-reported on the whole. RAINN, the anti-sexual assault organization, reports an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Despite this, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators goes to prison. This is largely because many rapes and sexual assaults are never reported.
When it comes to older populations, particularly those who are in nursing homes, these issues are further compounded by the fact that victims may be unable, physically or mentally, to provide investigators with pertinent details necessary to prove an actionable offense. But as CNN reported, in many cases, nursing home administrators too often are reticent to believe allegations of sexual abuse, and sometimes intentionally conceal information to avoid sullying the public reputation of the facility.
Our nursing home abuse lawyers in Atlanta recognize how difficult these cases can be for victims and loved ones. We also recognize how important it is to hold responsible parties accountable.
From a liability standpoint, there could be numerous defendants in such a case, including:
- Nursing home supervisor(s);
- Nursing home operator;
- Nursing home owner;
- Property owner.
Many nursing homes are structured in such a way as to limit the liability of owners and investors. Adept understanding of how to build an effective legal case against all responsible parties is one benefit of hiring a law firm whose prime focus is nursing home abuse.
That's not to say these cases aren't challenging, as evidenced by the fact that so few result in litigation.
CNN sought state and federal regulators' records of sexual abuse, as well as consulted with experts and victims. They first discovered that approximately 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse were reported to the Administration for Community Living between 2000 to 2015. However, those were only cases wherein the state ombudsman got involved in complaint resolution.
Reporters then sought figures from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), but learned the agency doesn't categorize sexual abuse separately. However, the agency did at CNN's request initiate a special search using certain sex-related keywords. This revealed data showing some 230 nursing homes had been cited for substantiated instances of sexual abuse between 2010 and 2015. Of those, more than half resulted in fines that topped $9 million. Still, only a fraction were cut from federal government funding. Keep in mind too: The federal government only oversees nursing homes, so these figures don't include sexual abuse that may have occurred at assisted living facilities.
Even so, the numbers don't tell a complete story because they fail to include instances where nursing homes may have been cited for mishandling nursing home sexual abuse allegations in other ways. When CNN conducted its own search, it found there had been more than 1,000 nursing homes that were cited for failing to prevent or mishandling alleged instances of sexual abuse and assault at the facility during that period. Of those, more than 100 were cited numerous times.
Allegations and complaints that didn't result in a substantiated "deficiency" were excluded in those reports. Basically, what that tells us is that these figures represent what is likely just a fraction of the actual cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes across the country.
The CNN investigation found in more than half the cases that were identified, nursing homes were cited for failure to properly screen workers who had violent pasts. It should be noted that civil cases may be pursued regardless of whether there is enough evidence to support a criminal charge or conviction.