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Rape: An Issue Of Nursing Home Neglect That Many Don't Realize Exists

When people think of "nursing home neglect" they usually think of things like bedsores and overmedication or the unnecessary use of restraints on a patient in order to make things more convenient for the nurses.

They probably don't think that their elderly mother or father is at risk of being raped. Yet, that's exactly what is happening -- and it's far from an isolated incident or two. Here is what you need to know:

Victims can be of all ages and in all states of health.

A deep investigation into the issue by CNN revealed a horrifying reality: there are over a thousand nursing homes in the country that have mishandled suspected sexual abuse among their residents. And that's just out of the cases that were reported -- so it doesn't capture those that managed to remain undetected or cleverly hidden.

The victims of the assaults were in all stages of health. Some were barely in need of nursing care and were really there more because they needed help with basics like dressing or medication compliance. Others were mute, victims of strokes, but their bodies bore testimony they couldn't. Many had dementia -- which made police automatically inclined to dismiss what they had to say even when administrators took them seriously. In some cases, the refusal to accept what was happening may have been age bias -- and the fact that even people who are supposed to be trained professionals forget that rape isn't about sexual gratification; it's about power. And the aged and weak are easy to overpower.

Victims can be re-victimized if they report the abuse.

Victims quickly learn -- either from their own experiences or that of others -- to stay silent. Otherwise, they risk being victimized all over again by the people they turn to for help. One resident spent two weeks working up the courage to tell the director of her nursing home that she'd been sexually violated. The director called the police -- on her. She was taken to a psych ward and locked up where she was dismissed as an attention seeker. Ultimately, she ended up homeless for a while.

Some rapists can go from nursing home to nursing home for years.

Nursing homes aren't exactly anxious to let family members know what's happening and a nurse, aide, janitor, social worker, or doctor who sexually assaults a resident is more likely to be quietly dismissed than charged with a crime. In one case, a serial rapist was moved from three different nursing homes where he violated at least six different women -- although the real tally is probably much higher. Some of the rapists are actually other residents. One Maryland nursing home resident, aged 62, raped a 51-year-old non-verbal and immobile fellow resident and defended his actions saying he could tell "she liked it."

Learn the signs of sexual assault and abuse of seniors.

The only way to protect seniors in nursing homes from sexual abuse is to be vigilant and don't be shy about letting people know that you are examining your elderly mother or father for any signs of neglect or abuse. Someone may think twice if they know that family members are keeping a close watch on their relative. 

The other thing that you need to do is be watchful for any signs that abuse is happening:

If you or a relative fell victim to rape while in a nursing home, talk to a nursing home abuse attorney who handles nursing home abuse cases today.