The warning signs of elder sexual abuse include bruising around the breasts or genitals, unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding, venereal disease or genital infections, and bloodied clothing or bedding, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Pay attention to sudden changes in their demeanor, especially if they appear fearful or withdrawn whenever a particular person is present or nearby.
Sexual abuse does not only pertain to forced or unwanted sexual contact without an elderly’s consent, as it can also mean other acts. It includes showing them pornographic materials against their will, coercing them to watch sexual acts, and making them undress or expose themselves.
Sometimes, the perpetrator does not stop with their sexual acts. They may have also engaged in physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation, taking advantage of their elderly victim’s frail condition and dependence on others. Be wary of red flags, such as sudden weight loss, signs of malnutrition or dehydration, restraint marks on the wrists and ankles, unsanitary living conditions, unkempt appearance, and unexplained injuries. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), if a dementia patient exhibits sudden aggressive behavior or signs of trauma like muttering or rocking, these may be indications that they suffered sexual abuse.
What Is the Effect of Abuse on Elderly Victims?
The effects of sexual abuse on victims are emotional distress and physical injuries, putting them at higher risk for premature deaths. Because of their condition, mistreated older people often have a harder time recovering from the traumatic experience. It is essential to spot the early signs of abuse to stop its progression, as it may lead to an untimely demise.
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What Can I Do to Help?
If you are wondering what the signs of elder sexual abuse are, you likely noticed a few red flags. If you suspect that mistreatment is happening or has occurred, it is crucial to report the incident to authorities. Different government agencies and non-profit organizations recognize the serious issue of elder abuse and aim to prevent it from rising further.
Some abuse cases go unreported for fear of retaliation—elderly victims are scared that their abusers, often their primary caregivers, will hurt them if another person becomes aware of the situation. When you ask your senior loved one if they experienced sexual abuse, ensure that it is just the two of you to encourage them to speak more openly. Once they admit it so, tell someone trustworthy or call emergency hotlines. Refrain from confronting the perpetrator as it may further endanger the elderly victim’s life unless you can immediately move them to a safer place.
Older adult victims are likely burdened with feelings of shame, causing them to keep the incident hidden. Do not be afraid to seek help from a professional who can intervene in the situation—the earlier you do so, the more beneficial it will be for the victim and their family in the long run.
Why Does Elder Abuse Happen?
Sexual abuse is one of the several types of abuse with the elderly as victims. According to Nursing Research and Practice (NRP), between four and six percent of older adults suffer sexual assault in an institution like a nursing home.
There are many risk factors as to why elder abuse happens. Some of the victims are highly dependent on their caregivers, even for the simplest tasks like bathing, eating, or changing clothes. Because of their frailty, they cannot defend themselves or resist attacks, especially against physically stronger, younger abusers. Older people with disabilities, mental impairment, and memory loss illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s also remain vulnerable.
Another contributing factor to sexual abuse is social isolation. Older adults who have no friends or family members living nearby become easy prey for abusers. Without people regularly checking up on them, there is no one to seek help or tell the situation, allowing unscrupulous individuals to continue their wrongful acts or behavior.
Sometimes, the abuser will intentionally isolate the victim from their family to prevent them from realizing the alarming situation. The abuser may limit communication to outsiders by controlling the victim’s phone and mail.
Seeking Legal Assistance
Once you’ve established that there is sexual abuse, you can seek legal support. Consider hiring a lawyer specializing in elderly abuse—they have the experience and knowledge in handling these complex legal issues. A lawyer can help you bring perpetrators and liable parties to justice and fight for the victim’s right to compensatory damages.
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Work with Ben Crump Law, PLLC
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has a team of lawyers who handle cases involving elder justice law. We have decades of experience under our belt tackling sexual abuse cases, among other areas of practice. If we believe we can help after reviewing your case, our team will carry out a thorough investigation. This may include gathering relevant evidence, such as medical records, photos, and testimonies, to build a strong case to hold the liable parties responsible for your injuries.
To get started, call (800) 959-1444.