Who Is At Risk of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes? - Mazow | McCullough, PC
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Who Is At Risk of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Sexual abuse is a devastating form of mistreatment in nursing homes that also happens to be the most underreported. Unfortunately, some patients are at a higher risk of becoming sexually assaulted during their residencies than others.

Understanding your loved one’s risk factors and how you can help protect your family member from nursing home abuse is key to ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Here’s what to know about the risk of sexual abuse in nursing homes and what steps you should take if you suspect your loved one has been abused in a long-term care facility.


According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a shocking 65% of elder abuse victims are female. This is likely due to multiple factors, including the fact that almost every kind of abuse is more frequently perpetrated against women and that there are fewer elderly men than women overall.

That doesn’t mean that elderly men can’t be victims though. The National Council on Aging estimates 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 suffer from some form of elder abuse, and the Office of the Inspector General suggests that 1 in 5 emergency room visits from nursing homes are the result of abuse or neglect. Yet only 1 in 24 cases are actually reported to authorities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dementia Patients

Dementia patients are at a greater risk of both sexual and physical abuse as a result of their high dependency on caregivers and their inability to effectively report instances of assault or neglect.

Caregivers have a great deal of power and control over patients with limited understanding and challenges expressing themselves with both verbal and nonverbal communication. These patients may also struggle to remember incidents of abuse, making them prime targets for mistreatment.

Patients With Limited Mobility

Many nursing home patients have limited mobility and are not able to freely move around by themselves without the assistance of someone else. When residents can’t get up easily or do things on their own, they become ideal victims who won’t be able to escape instances of abuse.

Such was the case with Kathy, a New York woman and nursing home patient who became pregnant while comatose. After it was discovered that Kathy was four months pregnant due to repeated rape by a facility staff member, she became one of the most notable cases in recent history of sexual assault against a female patient. 

Rolling Stone reported that the woman’s family, who were devout Roman Catholics, elected not to terminate the pregnancy. Kathy died around a year after her son was born and in 1998, “Kathy’s Law” was passed, which requires nursing home staff to undergo background checks before being allowed to work with patients.

Patients Without Family Support

Nursing home patients who are known to have poor family connections and few friends are at the highest risk of sexual abuse. These individuals are often seen as easier targets since they don’t have people coming to check on them regularly.

Perpetrators will often watch their intended target for a period of time before instigating any type of abuse to make sure the patient doesn’t have many friends or family members that they could report their mistreatment to.

Patients with frequent visitors or even in-facility friends that they socialize with are a little more insulated from this risk, since they have a support system who may even notice signs of abuse before the resident reports it.

That said, abuse and sexual assault can happen to anyone in a nursing home, regardless of their social and family connections, health status, or ability to talk and move around.

Has Your Loved One Been Sexually Abused In a Nursing Home?

If you suspect your family member has been sexually assaulted in a nursing home, it’s important to take action right away to help protect your loved one and hold the perpetrator responsible for their actions. When the person instigating the abuse is a staff member, you also have an opportunity to help protect other residents from suffering the same abuse.

At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we can help you access the resources you need to advocate for your family, so you can breathe easier knowing that your loved one is safe and well cared for.

Contact us today to learn more about your right to report nursing home sexual abuse or to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case in detail by calling our Salem, Massachusetts office at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.

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