There’s an epidemic in America that is rarely discussed and deeply troubling. Our most vulnerable population is being victimized by sexual predators employed by nursing homes across the country.
Today, CNN released findings from their special investigative report on the sad reality of sexual abuse and rape in nursing homes. In their report, CNN found that instances of prior sexual assault by the same perpetrator had been reported before the incident that ultimately landed the assailant in jail. State departments of public health are sent to investigate reports of any abuse, including sexual assault, on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees homes receiving government funding. These state agencies were all questioned by CNN, with some states, including Illinois, willing to give data. Since 2013, 386 cases of sexual abuse were reported in Illinois, and 201 of them were at the hands of a caretaker. Of all 386 cases, only 59 were substantiated.This means the other 327 cases were considered unable to be confirmed, an unsettling thought considering that in many cases that end up in court, the sexual abuser has been previously accused of the same behavior.
Many Facilities Part of the Cover Up
Despite lofty promises of quality, compassionate care for Americans during their golden years, CNN discovered that many nursing homes are engaging in ‘blame the victim’ behavior and outright cover ups. In cases investigated by the news agency, they found multiple instances in which facilities said that residents flirted or had memory problems that made their accusations unreliable. In some cases, administrators and owners hid or destroyed evidence of sexual abuse that was brought to them by fellow staff members. Facilities are also known for low pay for nursing assistant positions, making it nearly impossible to retain a dedicated, qualified staff.
Cases Gone Missing
An unfortunate reality is that there is not a system that tracks instances of unsubstantiated abuse. Knowing that most reported sexual abuse cases are found to be unverifiable, reported cases that don’t end up in court are unknown to residents and their loved ones. In a case highlighted by CNN, the daughter of a raped nursing home resident said that had she known her mother’s attacker had been accused of rape before, she would never have allowed her mother to live in the facility. The victim, 83 year old Sonja Fischer, left Indonesia as child to escape the rape and murder of young girls by Japanese soldiers. To think that she escaped such horrific conditions and in her last days was a victim of the very abuse she fled decades before is an irony too cruel to fathom.
To read the full report, click here. Please be advised that the content is graphic in nature and unsettling.