Can Sexual Abuse Be Considered Elder Abuse?
In a care setting, sexual abuse is defined as nonconsensual intimate contact or exposure or any similar activity (including unwanted sexual comments) when a patient or resident is incapable of consenting. Unfortunately, the elderly are easy prey to sexual predators, who can be staff, other residents or visitors to a facility; according to a survey conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, sexual abuse accounts for .8 percent of abuse reports.
Any sexual contact with an elder without their consent is abuse. Here are some specific examples:
- Coerced nudity
- Fondling, touching or kissing
- Sexual assault, including rape or sodomy
- Spying on an elder in the bedroom or bathroom
- Telling sexually suggestive or “dirty” stories or jokes
Dealing with sexual abuse in a setting where residents are often mentally or physically impaired can often be complex. Any facility aware of the propensity of a particular resident for this sort of behavior has a duty to its residents to monitor him or her closely and to protect other residents from inappropriate behavior.
Incidents of this nature are improper and are criminally punishable, although signs of sexual elder abuse might not be as obvious to observers as signs of abuse. If you become aware that an incident of this nature has occurred, it should be reported immediately to the facility administrator, licensing agency or another appropriate authority so that steps can be taken to prevent any reoccurrence.