When most of us worry about the possibility that an elderly parent might become the victim of elder abuse, we tend to focus on the risk of physical and/or emotional abuse. Sadly, both physical and emotional abuse of the elderly occur at an alarming rate; however, there is another type of elder abuse that isn’t discussed as frequently – elder sexual abuse. The Oklahoma City elder law attorneys at Parman & Easterday explain how to spot signs that a parent may be the victim of elder sexual abuse and what you can do if you do.
What You Need To Know About Elder Sexual Abuse
At its core, sexual violence is a crime motivated by a desire to control a victim. Consequently, perpetrators of sexual assault often seek out victims who appear vulnerable. Most of us know this, which is why we take such care to protect children from predators. What many people fail to consider is that the very old make attractive victims for sexual predators because they are often just as vulnerable as young children.
Elder sexual abuse is defined as the initiation of physical or sexual contact with an elderly person, when that contact is non-consensual or unwanted. Often, the victim of elderly sexual abuse is an elderly person who is confused or unable to give consent. Whether or not the contact is a mere touching or a completed rape, if it is sexual in nature and non-consensual, it is considered sexual abuse. Some examples of elder sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual assault and battery
- Sexual photography
- Forced nudity
How Often Does Sexual Abuse of the Elderly Occur?
Experts agree that elder abuse occurs far more often than most people realize. Accurate figures are very difficult to come by for several reasons. Elderly victims are often embarrassed to have been victimized and don’t report the abuse. Many elderly victims of abuse are dependent on their abusers for everything from food and shelter to medical care. Consequently, victims often fear reprisals if they report the abuse. Nevertheless, conservative estimates regarding elder sexual abuse in the U.S. indicate that:
- 70% of reported abuse occurs in nursing homes
- Only 30% of victims of elder sexual abuse report it to authorities
- The abuser is the primary caregiver 81% of the time
- Elderly women are six times more likely than men to be sexually abused
Signs that a Parent Might Be the Victim of Elderly Sexual Abuse
Because the victims of elder sexual abuse often remain silent, loved ones need to be extra vigilant in watching for signs of abuse. Some common signs to look for include:
- Unexplained STDs and infections
- Bruises in genital areas, thighs, and breasts
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Clothing that is torn, stained, or covered in blood
- Increased difficulty walking or sitting
- Depression or withdrawal
- Anxiety or excessive fear around caregiver
- Agitation and abrupt change in mood
- Changes in a senior’s demeanor, such as showing fear or becoming withdrawn when a specific person is around
- Evidence of pornographic material being shown to a senior with diminished capacity
- Blood found on sheets or linens
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Parent Is a Victim?
If you spot signs that your parent might be the victim of sexual abuse, try and discuss your concerns with him or her. This might be awkward and meet with resistance so stress to them that elder abuse, in any form, is not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of and that you only want to protect them – just as they protected you when younger. If the suspected abuse is occurring in a long-term care facility, sit down with an administrator and share your suspicions. You should also consult with an experienced elder law attorney. Elder abuse is a crime, and it can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit. Finally, you may consider petitioning for guardianship of your parent so you have the authority to move him or her or replace a caregiver if you decide your suspicions about abuse are well founded.
Contact Oklahoma City Elder Law Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you are worried that your parent is the victim of elder sexual abuse, contact the experienced Oklahoma City elder law attorneys at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.