When most of us worry about the possibility that an elderly loved one might become the victim of elder abuse we tend to focus on the risk of physical and/or emotional abuse. Sadly, both physical and emotional abuse of the elderly do occur at an alarming rate; however, there is another type of elder abuse that isn’t discussed as frequently – elder sexual abuse. The Grand Forks elder law attorneys at German Law | Wealth explain how to spot signs of elder sexual abuse and what you can do if you suspect abuse.
What You Need to Know about Elder Sexual Abuse
At its core, sexual violence is a crime motivated by a desire to control a victim. Consequently, perpetrators of sexual assault often seek out victims who appear vulnerable. Most of us know this which is why we take such care to protect children from predators. What many people fail to consider, however, is that the very old make attractive victims to sexual predators as well because they are often just as vulnerable as young children.
Elder sexual abuse is defined as the initiation of physical or sexual contact with an elderly person, when that contact is non-consensual or unwanted. Often, the victim of elderly sexual abuse is an elderly person who is confused or unable to give consent. Whether or not the contact is a mere touching or a completed rape, if it is sexual in nature and non-consensual, it is considered sexual abuse. Some examples of elder sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual assault and battery
- Sexual photography
- Forced nudity
Elder Sexual Abuse Facts and Figures
Experts all agree that elder abuse occurs far more often that most people realize; however, accurate figures are very difficult to come by for several reasons. Nevertheless, conservative estimates regarding elder sexual abuse in the U.S. indicate that:
- 70% of reported abuse occurs in nursing homes
- Only 30% of victims of elder sexual abuse report it to authorities
- The abuser is the primary caregiver 81% of the time
- Elderly women are six times more likely than men to be sexually abused
Signs of Elderly Sexual Abuse
Because the victims of elder sexual abuse often remain silent, loved ones need to be extra vigilant at watching for the signs of abuse. Some common signs to look for include:
- Unexplained STDs and infections
- Bruises in genital areas, thighs, and breasts
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Clothing that has been torn, stained, or covered in blood
- Increased difficulty walking or sitting
- Depression or withdrawal
- Anxiety or excessive fear around caregiver
- Agitation and abrupt change in mood
- Changes in a senior’s demeanor, such as showing fear or becoming withdrawn when a specific person is around
- Evidence of pornographic material being shown to a senior with diminished capacity
- Blood found on sheets or linens
What Should You Do If You Suspect Elder Sexual Abuse?
If you spot signs that indicate elder sexual abuse, try and discuss your concerns with your loved one. This might be awkward and met with resistance so stress to them that elder abuse, in any form, is not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of and that you only want to protect them – just like they probably protected you at one point. Next, if the suspected abuse is occurring in a long-term care facility, sit down with an administrator and share your suspicions. You should also consult with an experienced elder law attorney. Elder abuse is a crime, but it can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit.
Contact Grand Forks Elder Law Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder abuse, contact the Grand Forks elder abuse attorneys at German Law | Wealth by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.
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