an elderly woman stares out a window and looks concerned

4 Key Statistics on Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Sexual abuse in nursing homes is rare, but it can be extremely damaging, both physically and mentally. Sexual abuse in nursing homes may be committed by anyone — staff, other residents, or even criminals who enter the facility illegally. Get important statistics on sexual abuse in nursing homes.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes Explained

Unwanted romantic or sexual conduct may be considered sexual abuse. Seniors living in nursing homes are more vulnerable to sexual abuse because they may be living with physical or mental disabilities.

These problems may prevent them from properly giving consent or defending themselves from an assault.

The following people can commit sexual abuse in nursing homes:

  • Aides, nurses, or other staff members
  • Criminals who invade the home
  • Fellow residents

It is important that families regularly check in with loved ones who live in nursing homes to keep them safe. Nobody ever deserves to suffer from nursing home abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, or emotional.

Concerned family members can look for signs of sexual abuse, including:

  • Bruises on the thighs or genital area
  • Newly developed depression or anxiety
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

Below, the Nursing Home Abuse Justice team has compiled four important statistics on sexual abuse in nursing homes to help families understand this problem.

1. Sexual Abuse Is the Least Common Type of Abuse

Compared to other types of nursing home abuse, sexual abuse is fairly rare.

According to a 2017 report from the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • 0.7% of nursing home staff members reported sexually abusing residents
  • 1.9% of nursing home residents (or their guardians/loved ones) reported sexual abuse
  • Sexual abuse was the least reported type of abuse out of all the other types

Sexual abuse in nursing homes is often underreported. This can be due to the social stigma around sexual assault, or fear of retribution by the perpetrator. Also, residents with mental or physical disabilities may not be able to recount their experience and tell the authorities.

2. There Have Been Over 20,000 Complaints of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), there were over 20,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes over the past 20 years. This means that every day, about three people in nursing homes are sexually abused.

These figures do not include sexual abuse that comes from other residents — which means the actual rate of sexual abuse in nursing homes may be even higher.

Since there is no national database on sexual abuse in nursing homes, it is difficult to know the full scope of the problem.

3. Female Residents and Dementia Patients Run a Higher Risk of Sexual Abuse

According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, female nursing home residents and those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are more likely to be sexually abused.

In general, women have a higher risk of sexual abuse than men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 5 women have been either raped or suffered an attempted rape, compared to 1 out of 38 men.

Residents with mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s are also at a high risk of sexual abuse because of their impaired memory and communication skills. Sadly, the CDC reported that 47.8% of nursing home residents had some form of Alzheimer’s disease as of 2016.

4. Over 1,000 Nursing Homes Were Cited for Sexual Abuse in a Three-Year Period

From 2013 to 2016, more than 1,000 nursing homes in the U.S. were cited for sexual abuse. A 2017 CNN report found that nearly 100 of these facilities received multiple citations.

Over 500 of the facilities were also cited for failing to investigate and report allegations of sexual abuse — or for not screening employees for past sex crimes.

Although many nursing homes that take sexual abuse cases seriously, there are far too many that try to sweep cases under the rug.

Protecting Loved Ones Against Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

If you notice any possible signs of sexual abuse of a loved one at a nursing facility, make sure that you take action.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) recommends several steps to take if you believe a nursing home resident was sexually abused.

These steps include:

  • Calling 911 or the local police department
  • Calling Adult Protective Services (APS)
  • Calling the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
  • Calling the State Licensing and Certification Agency (this agency handles nursing home inspections and complaints)

You can also report the abuse to nursing home administrators to make sure there is a record of the incident at the facility.

By reporting sexual abuse, you can help your loved one begin the recovery process and ensure that other residents will not suffer.

Finally, it’s important to know that sexual abuse is just one of the many ways that nursing home residents can suffer. Get other important statistics on nursing home abuse to learn more.

Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: May 27, 2020

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