Residential care facilities are designed to provide personal care for older adults and others who need 24-hour nursing care. Unfortunately, residential care sexual abuse is a shocking reality that has become prevalent in California. Sexual abuse against residents of nursing homes is perpetrated by fellow residents, nursing home staff, or strangers.
Acts that could be considered sexual abuse include rape, lewd conduct, fondling, kissing, and sodomy, among other unconsented sexual acts. Sexual abuse in residential care facilities is a breach of trust and duty of care that the facilities owe the residents. Sexual abuse can cause serious physical and emotional damage to the victim. Additionally, the trauma of the experience could take a toll on their psychological well-being.
If you or a loved one is a victim of residential care sexual abuse, you are entitled to compensation. In addition to facing criminal charges, the nursing home or perpetrator of the abuse will be liable for your injuries and losses. You will benefit from our expert guidance at Sex Crimes Attorney as you navigate your civil lawsuit and recover the compensation you deserve for residential care sexual abuse in California.
Understanding Residential Care Sexual Abuse in California
Residential care centers are facilities designed to offer long-term care for individuals needing assistance with daily activities. Residents of these facilities could be older adults who cannot care for themselves due to age or other adults who have mental and physical incapacitation.
Transferring a loved one to a care facility is a tough but sometimes necessary decision to improve their quality of life and ensure their physical and mental well-being. When you check in your loved one at a nursing home or other residential care center, you trust the facility to take care of them and ensure their safety. This is done by employing competent staff and putting up safety measures.
Unfortunately, incidents of sexual abuse in these facilities have increased significantly in California. Sexual abuse involves any sexual acts that are unconsented. Actions that fall under these categories suffice as sexual abuse in California:
- Intimate contact is accomplished through physical force or coercion. In this case, physical force neutralizes the victim's attempt to resist.
- Sexual acts accomplished through manipulation, threats, or tricks.
- Sexual contact with a person who cannot give consent. Although consent is critical in determining sexual abuse, you must understand that mentally or physically incapacitated individuals cannot consent to a sexual act. This is because they lack a full understanding of the nature or consequences of the act.
Types of Sexual Abuse in Residential Care Facilities
If your loved one is a victim of any of these acts while in a residential care facility, you can file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the act and the facility where the abuse occurred:
- Rape and attempted rape. Under California law, rape is unconsented sexual intercourse accomplished by force or violence. Sexual intercourse, in this case, involves the penetration of the penis of one person and the vagina of another. Your loved one could have a successful civil claim if the act were unsuccessful.
- Object sexual penetration. A nursing home resident could be a victim of object sexual penetration when an unknown item is used to penetrate their vagina or anus.
- Kissing and fondling. Sometimes, sexual abuse does not involve penetration. Unconsented kissing or fondling of another person’s genitals is considered sexual abuse.
- In California, sodomy involves the unconsented penetration of one person’s anus with the penis of another person, which is a serious criminal offense.
Sometimes, sexual abuse does not have enough physical contact. These acts could also suffice in a residential care sexual abuse lawsuit:
- Masturbating in another person’s presence.
- Exposure of genitals in front of the victim.
- Taking explicit images or videos of the victim.
- Unwarranted procedures that are sexually intrusive.
If you suspect your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse, you will need expert legal guidance. Your attorney will help you investigate the incident to determine whether it qualifies for the definition of sexual abuse and pursue compensation for the victim.
Factors that Increase the Risk of Residential Care Sexual Abuse
The rate of residential sexual abuse has increased significantly in California. The residents of these facilities are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because:
- Some residents suffer from physical and mental challenges. A physically incapacitated person may be unable to protect themselves or resist sexually abusive acts. Sexual abuse is any sexual conduct that is unconsented. Residents battling mental health challenges cannot understand the nature and consequences of a sexual act, which makes them unable to consent.
- Residents come from different backgrounds. Residential care facilities provide care for older adults and individuals with physical and mental issues. The residents come from different backgrounds, some of whom have criminal backgrounds. Your loved one could be at increased risk of sexual abuse when housed with a person with a history of sexual crimes.
- The perpetrators of the abuse prey on shame and guilt. Sexual abuse causes a feeling of guilt and shame for the victim. Some victims blame themselves for the abuse. Predators take advantage of this situation to continue the abuse without fear that the victim will report it.
- Victim isolation. Most residents in nursing homes are isolated from their family members. This makes it challenging to notice and report the abuse or pursue a civil case. The perpetrators of the abuse could prey on this fact to perpetrate the acts.
- Partial or full dependence. Residents of nursing homes depend fully or partially on the staff to perform their daily chores. This increases their vulnerability to sexual abuse.
- Overcrowding in the facility. When a residential care facility is overcrowded with residents, the resident-staff ratio may need to be higher. This reduces the efficiency of supervision. In this case, a person could be vulnerable to resident-on-resident abuse.
- Ease of victim manipulation. Individuals in nursing homes have different issues that make them incapable of fully caring for themselves. For this reason, they can easily be manipulated to comply with the sexual acts and threatened not to report them.
Forms of Residential Care Sexual Abuse
Unlike popular belief, staff at residential care facilities are not the only perpetrators of sexual abuse against residents. While in the nursing home, your loved one will mingle with people of different backgrounds who could be responsible for the unwanted sexual acts. Common forms of sexual abuse at residential homes include:
Sexual Abuse by Staff
The nursing home staff is responsible for taking care of the residents. This puts them in positions of trust and direct contact with individuals in the residential facility. Unfortunately, some of these staff members may take advantage of the vulnerable position of the residents to engage in sexually abusive acts against them.
Sexual Abuse by Another Resident
The settings in residential homes encourage socialization among residents in nursing homes. Although this could be a good thing to avoid loneliness, the interactions increase the duties of the caregivers to ensure everyone’s safety. The residents of nursing homes have different backgrounds. Some individuals have a criminal past, which may not be discovered when they are admitted to the facility.
Without proper supervision, your loved one could suffer sexual abuse from another resident. The risk of abuse increases when the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot effectively defend themselves.
The residential care facility ensures that all its residents are safe. If your loved one falls victim to residential care sexual abuse by another resident, you can sue the facility for negligence and the perpetrator for their acts.
Sexual Abuse by Strangers
Residential care facilities must have reliable security to monitor the movements of individuals who enter the facility. This includes keeping records of staff, residents, and other individuals who frequent the facility. Without proper monitoring, strangers could enter the facility and abuse the residents without being noticed. In this case, the facility will be liable for failing to protect the resident.
Sexual Abuse from a Family Member
A family member of a resident could abuse them within the facility. Residential care facilities allow family members to visit the resident and spend time with them. Even when the victim and the abuser are married, sexual abuse at a nursing home will attract criminal and civil consequences.
Indicators of Sexual Abuse Among Nursing Home Residents
Victims of residential sexual abuse are unlikely to report the incidents. This could be due to mental incapacitation or the fear of retaliation from the perpetrator of the abuse. Additionally, the victim could feel ashamed and guilty about the situation. For victims without strong family support, the abuse could continue for years before it is noticed. Prolonged abuse will have lasting effects on them.
Therefore, you are responsible for spotting the signs of sexual abuse in your loved one during your interactions. Your loved one can prefer to disclose the incidents of abuse to you instead of reporting them to the facility. In this case, you must follow up, investigate, and take the necessary measures to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
Some of the signs of sexual abuse you should look out for in your loved one include:
- Bruises and injuries on the thighs, anal area, and breasts.
- Torn or bloody undergarments.
- Unexplainable incidents of sexually transmitted infections.
- Pelvic trauma that causes pain during bowel movements.
- Difficulty sitting or walking.
- Suicidal attempts. The guilt and shame associated with sexual abuse could lead the victim to depression and suicide attempts.
- Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Social and emotional withdrawal.
- Sudden incidents of engaging in unusual sexual contact.
- A strained relationship between the alleged victim and an employee of the facility or a family member.
Lasting Impact of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse in a residential care facility is a traumatic experience that could severely impact the victim. When confined in a nursing home, they trust the facility and staff with their safety and care. The breach of this duty through sexual abuse can have immediate and long-lasting impacts on the survivor. The following are common effects of residential sexual abuse:
Physical and Sexual Health Impacts
Sexual abuse ranges from minor touching for sexual gratification to serious and violent acts like rape. In violent acts, the victim could suffer severe physical trauma and injuries. Sometimes, the force used by the perpetrator to commit the sexual crime could be enough to cause the victim's death.
The physical symptoms of victims of residential care sexual abuse could include the following:
- Gynecological problems.
- Nausea, fatigue, and migraines.
- Physical wounds resulting from the force or violence used in the crime.
- High risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
While physical injuries resulting from residential care sexual abuse can be treated, the psychological trauma resulting from these acts may be more challenging to eliminate. Victims of sexual abuse could exhibit psychological issues, which include post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors of residential sexual abuse could experience these symptoms of PTSD associated with the incident:
- This involves avoiding places or things that remind them of the traumatic event.
- Intrusion symptoms. The intrusion symptoms could include repeated memories of the event and flashbacks.
- Changes in feelings and thoughts. Individuals in nursing homes are elderly and sometimes suffer from different illnesses. Sexual abuse in a residential home could worsen their mental and emotional situations.
Other psychological effects of residential care sexual abuse include the following:
- Depression and suicidal thoughts.
- Anger outbursts and irritability.
- Fear and social anxiety.
The effects of sexual abuse in nursing homes do not end with physical and psychological trauma. Unwanted sexual contact from individuals in trusted positions can cause severe emotional distress for the victim. Survivors of nursing home sexual abuse could experience high shame and guilt or self-blame for the situation.
The perpetrators of residential care sexual abuse prey on feelings of shame and guilt to continue the abuse and guarantee that the victim will not speak about it. This results in prolonged abuse before another person notices the abuse or the victim gains the courage to report the incident.
Victims of sexual abuse use drugs to mask the pain of the abuse. This could turn a person into a drug addict. Although alcohol and drugs can temporarily relieve the pain associated with abuse, their effects could be long-lasting. Unfortunately, most residents of nursing homes are dealing with different degenerative disorders that could be worsened by alcohol or drug use.
Filing a Lawsuit for Residential Sexual Abuse in California
The United States Congress passed several laws to safeguard the wellness of elderly and vulnerable individuals in residential care facilities. Sexual abuse in these facilities is the facility's breach of duty towards the resident. If you or a loved one is a victim of residential care sexual abuse, you could file a civil lawsuit and claim compensation.
In this case, a lawsuit could be filed against the specific perpetrator of the sexual act or the facility. A lawsuit against a residential care facility is based on their negligence. Before filing a civil suit against the facility, you can attempt to negotiate a settlement with the management and their insurance company. If the negotiations are unfruitful, you could go ahead with your lawsuit.
For the lawsuit, you can gather evidence, which includes witness testimonies and a physical and medical assessment of the victim, to substantiate the claims. The judge will consider your evidence before deciding on an appropriate settlement.
Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the perpetrators of sexual abuse or a residential care facility for failing to protect your loved one can be an uphill task. You could increase your chances of compensation by hiring and retaining a competent residential care sexual abuse lawyer. Some of the factors that could impact the amount recovered as compensation for your lawsuit include:
- Strength of the evidence. When you file a civil sexual abuse lawsuit against an individual or a residential care facility, you must have enough evidence to support the claims. This could include the alleged victim's medical records and testimony from witnesses who may have been present during the abuse. Civil cases with strong physical evidence will result in more compensation than those based on circumstantial evidence.
- The severity of the abuse. Sexual abuse ranges from minor acts like indecent exposure to the resident to severe acts like rape. The nature and extent of the abuse against your loved one will determine the compensation they can recover from the lawsuit. Severe acts may cause more physical, emotional, and psychological trauma, which warrants more compensation.
- Statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the amount of time within which a victim of sexual abuse must file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Filing a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has elapsed may deny you the chance to recover compensation. While the statute of limitations for residential care sexual abuse has increased, filing a lawsuit later could impact the availability of witnesses and evidence to support the claim for maximum compensation.
- The extent of the damages your loved one suffered will impact the compensation they can recover. If the victim has suffered incapacitating physical and sexual injuries, they can recover more compensation.
- The victim's age. Sexual abuse can take a toll on the victim’s life and affect the quality of it. A younger victim will have to deal with the impact of sexual abuse for a longer time. Therefore, younger victims of residential care sexual abuse may stand to recover more in a civil lawsuit.
- The extent of a facility’s liability. When you file a lawsuit against residential care sexual abuse, you must identify the liable parties. Mostly, you can file a lawsuit against the perpetrator and ten facilities for their neglect. Mostly, the residential care facility will have more resources and a better insurance plan, ensuring better compensation than filing a lawsuit against an individual.
Compensation Benefits in a Residential Care Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
A successful sexual abuse lawsuit can help your loved one recover compensation for the ordeal. Although monetary compensation will not take away the physical and emotional pain, it can help avoid financial difficulties for you and your family. A successful sexual abuse lawsuit will yield compensation for:
- Medical Bills. Sexual abuse can cause severe physical and sexual injuries. If your loved one suffered an injury from the ordeal, they will be compensated for the cost of current and future medical bills arising from the abuse.
- Pain and suffering Residential care sexual abuse can cause severe physical pain and emotional trauma. Although pain or suffering cannot be equated to money, the victim will be compensated for the damages.
- Cost of therapy and counseling. Even after the physical wounds have healed, the emotional and psychological trauma resulting from sexual abuse at a residential care facility could impact the victim’s life. In this case, your loved one may require therapy and counseling to move past the ordeal. The liable party in the sexual abuse lawsuit will be responsible for these costs.
- Diminished quality of life. Sexual abuse can create anxiety, shame, and guilt in the victim. This may prevent them from enjoying their lives or engaging in the fun activities they did before the incident. A victim of residential care sexual abuse will be compensated for the diminished quality of life.
Find a Competent Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me
Due to the vulnerable position of individuals in residential homes, they are prone to different forms of abuse, including sexual abuse. The horrors of residential sexual abuse cause severe physical and emotional scars for the victim. Sexual abuse in nursing homes could involve conduct ranging from physical contact and fondling to severe acts like rape and sodomy.
In addition to being a criminal offense, sexual abuse can have civil consequences for the perpetrator. Victims of residential sexual abuse are entitled to compensation for the physical and emotional harm caused. You will recover compensation for the injuries and losses caused by residential sexual abuse by filing a civil lawsuit. The defendants in your case could be the perpetrators of the abuse or the facility that failed to protect you.
Most residential care facilities will employ their vast resources to dispute your claims and build a defense against your lawsuit. Therefore, you will require the guidance of a skilled residential care sexual abuse attorney to navigate your lawsuit. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we will guide you through building a solid civil case to ensure maximum compensation for residential care sexual abuse in California. Contact us at 888-666-8480 to discuss your case.