The unthinkable still plagues the nation – the elderly falling victim to sexual predators in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. The United States Census Bureau projects California’s elderly population to double to 6.4 million by 2025, which could also double the increase in elderly sexual abuse cases.
Elderly sexual abuse is any forced, unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact with an older person, which may involve unwelcome sexually-related activities. If your elderly loved one is reluctant to speak up due to their fragile mental state or fear of retaliation, how can you spot the signs of sexual abuse and seek penalties?
California law requires specific people, compensated or not, to act as mandated reporters. This legislation only means administrators, supervisors, health practitioners, facility staff and clergy members, county employees and other local law enforcement personnel must report elderly abuse within two hours for severe situations and not later than two days for less urgent cases.
But despite all-too-common stories of sexual abuse across the state, many cases still go unreported. Here are some potential signs you must watch out for:
- Bruises and lacerations around private areas
- Unexplained genital infection, bleeding or incontinence
- Sudden behavioral changes, like agitation, restlessness and sleep disturbances
- Display of increased dissociative and depressive symptoms, and anxiety or panic attacks, especially around the presence of specific nursing home staff
If you notice any of these red flags, know you can file a claim against all responsible parties.
Elderly sexual abuse penalties
Per the state’s Penal Code 368, any elderly abuse is punishable by county jail imprisonment for up to one year, a $6,000 fine, a combination of both or state imprisonment for up to four years. As outlined in this legislation, sexual abuse refers to any of the following:
- Sexual battery
- Sexual penetration
- Rape or rape in concert
- Oral copulation
- Lewd or lascivious acts
There are additional punishments for great bodily harm suffering, which may be three years if they are below 70 and five years if above 70. In the worst cases of death, the sentence will have additional seven years. Depending on the severity of your case, heavier jail time and fines could apply.
Voice for the vulnerable
Nothing can probably be a more sensitive topic than elderly sexual abuse. Adding to the challenge is your loved one’s impaired cognitive functions that make it almost impossible to gather critical proof in support of your claim. But these challenges must not stop you from being the voice your loved one needs right now. It will help to speak with a legal team who can work on your options and fight with you during these tragic times.