A Shocking Form of Elder Abuse: Sexual Abuse Against Seniors in Care Centers and At Home

January 7, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We have recently focused a number of entries on this blog on the problem of elder abuse in California. This is not a new issue and it is not a new area of practice for our experienced Northern California elder abuse attorney. However, the problem is growing at a startling rate and we are committed to informing the public about the threat to our seniors. We hope this knowledge allows our readers to be better equipped to spot elder abuse and encourages them to speak up if they suspect someone they know is being mistreated. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to protect our older residents, especially those made vulnerable by physical or mental decline.

We have written about physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of the elderly. This post will focus on a familiar topic but one that people rarely associate with the senior population. It speaks well of most of us that we’d never imagine the crime, but it is important that people become aware of the very real threat of sexual abuse of seniors, a danger lurking in nursing homes, other care centers, and even private homes.

Investigators Suspect More Victims May Be Involved in Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case
A recent AP report, carried in the San Francisco Chronicle, focuses on an ongoing investigation to a nursing home sex assault case. Last month, suspect David Moreno entered a not guilty plea to charges that he sexually assaulted a sixty-nine year old disabled woman at an elder care facility in Yorba Linda. Moreno, a twenty-eight year old Riverside resident, worked as a janitor at the Emeritus Senior Living center. On January 2, detectives and prosecutors announced that there may be more victims and have asked for the public’s help in the case. Moreno has another court date on Monday January 7 and is free on $100,000 bail.

The Problem of Sexual Abuse of Seniors
Although it is relatively rare compared to other forms of elder abuse, more and more studies are finding that sexual abuse is a significant problem for a substantial number of older Americans. In general terms, sexual abuse is non-consensual physical contact, including rape, molestation, or any form of sexual contact with someone who lacks the needed mental capacity to effectively consent. Sexual abuse of the elderly can occur in private home settings, where it can be perpetrated by relatives (including a spouse) or other community members. Additionally, sexual abuse can occur in senior care facilities where attendants, center employees, and even other residents can be responsible. Most of the identified victims are women, but older men have also been victims of sexual abuse and may be less likely to report the issue. Seniors who suffer from physical and/or cognitive disabilities are particularly at risk. Perpetrators are more likely to target those who are isolated and lack social support. Elderly victims of sexual abuse are at an increased risk of injury or loss of independence as a result of the crime.

Across the board, sexual abuse is a difficult crime to combat because it often goes unreported for a wide-range of reasons. Reporting is an even greater issue in the case of senior victims who may lack resources or may be physically or mentally unable to report the assault. Concerned community member should stay alert for both physical and behavioral signs of abuse including: genital or anal injury; bruising on thighs or genital areas; torn, bloody, or stained clothing; sexually transmitted disease; inappropriate/increased aggression, especially of a sexual nature; or signs of an inappropriate relationship with a suspect.

Two useful resources on the issue of sexual elder abuse (both of which inform this discussion) are the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the National Center on Elder Abuse (part of the federal government’s U.S. Administration on Aging). If you suspect someone you care about is the victim of elder abuse, or you are a victim yourself, seek help. In addition to the aforementioned resources, the California Department of Aging hosts a webpage http://www.dca.ca.gov/consumer/seniors/elder_abuse.shtml that provides information on reporting elder abuse.

Our Commitment to Fighting Sexual and Other Forms of Elder Abuse in Northern California
Our San Francisco elder abuse law firm helps victims of sexual abuse among California’s elderly population, including abuse perpetrated in nursing homes and other settings. Attorney Brod and the entire staff understand the sensitivity of these matters and we promise to treat all elder law client with the respect and compassion these subjects demand. We will help you explore all available civil claims to help you obtain justice in addition to money damages. We are also dedicated to putting an end to all forms of elder abuse and hope that keeping our readers informed will help empower them to join us in this fight. Our whole community must work together to bring this epidemic to an end.

See Related Blog Posts:
A Website Aimed at Preventing Elder Abuse and Helping the Victims

Oakland Elder Care Attorney Comments on the Danger of Neglect Following Death of Concord Senior Care Facility Resident