By definition, elder sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact of an individual that is 60 years old or older. While most of us can't even consider that elder sexual abuse is a common threat to our seniors, it happens all the time.
It has been found that roughly 70 percent of elder sexual abuse and assault happens while the senior is the resident of a nursing home. About 12 percent of victims are assaulted or abused while they are being cared for in their own homes. Regardless of where the victims are when the abuse happens, more than 60 percent of the time the abuse is done by a family member. In 81 percent of elder sexual abuse cases, the abuse comes from the victim's caregivers.
As frequently as elder sexual abuse occurs, it may be surprising to learn that only 30 percent of seniors that suffer elder sexual abuse or assault ever come forward with their complaint. Convictions for elder sexual abuse are hard to come by and get increasingly difficult the older the victim is. Studies have shown that along with age and mental condition, victims of elder sexual abuse are less likely to have authorities believe their complaint if there are not physical signs of assault. While many of these assaults happen while victims are in the care of others for extended periods of time, it is likely that there will not be many physical signs of abuse.
For individuals that have loved ones being cared for in a nursing home or by an in-home care provider, it is important to know the signs of abuse and sexual assault. Changes in behavior, aggressiveness or withdrawal can be signs of abuse. Likewise, victims often suffer from panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder after an assault. Physical signs may also be noticed but do not have to be visible for sexual abuse or assault to have taken place.
If you suspect your loved one has been victimized and suffered elder sexual abuse, assault or nursing home neglect, consider speaking to a trusted elder law attorney.