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Sexual assaults are a horrifying part of nursing home abuse

When you think about nursing home neglect or abuse, sexual abuse is probably not the first thing that comes to mind -- but it's a grim reality for some patients.

Once thought to be rare, evidence is slowly surfacing that indicates the sexual abuse of nursing home residents is horrifyingly common. Perhaps even worse, those in positions of power and influence don't put much effort into stopping the abuse.

An investigation into the issue found a number of disturbing trends:

-- Patients with dementia often have their complaints dismissed as unreliable or mere fictions.

-- Administrations are slow to investigate and unwilling to act when a patient is unable to give clear and convincing evidence due to dementia or the after-effects of a stroke.

-- Allegations of abuse are often not reported to police. If they are, police may fail to act because they lack sufficient evidence.

-- There's no system of tracking those fired for suspected patient abuse, which means many just move on to a new nursing home and new victims.

-- Primary caretakers, who are usually relatives of the victims, often are uninformed of the allegations of assault.

Because there's no national system for tracking sexual abuse, data obtained from the federal government only captures cases where a government official got involved -- which is estimated to be a mere fraction of the number of real abuses that have taken place. Even so, over 16,000 incidents of sexual abuse in nursing homes have been recorded since 2000.

Cover-ups are also common. One investigation found that more than 1,000 facilities had been cited for not properly handling abuse complaints in just a three-year period. In one case, the director of a facility ordered her employees to hand over all evidence of abuse to her, which she then destroyed.

To be on alert for the sexual abuse of a loved one, watch for tell-tale signs:

-- Panic attacks around certain staff members

-- Allegations of abuse, even if they are jumbled, confused or seem nonsensical

-- Underwear that is damaged, bloody or torn

-- Genital bruising and rectal tearing

-- Bruises or bite marks around the thighs, neck, breasts and genitals

-- Symptoms of any venereal disease, including herpes sores

If your loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse while in a nursing home, don't hesitate -- get an attorney's help immediately.

Source: FindLaw, "How to Recognize Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect," accessed June 07, 2017

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