CNN had an incredible article on the ongoing problem of sexual assaults in long term care facilities, and the willingness to cover these crimes up by the industry, the police, and the prosecutors. It’s these systemic failures that make it especially hard for victims to get justice — and even easier for perpetrators to get away with their heinous crimes.
Throughout the country vulnerable senior citizens are being attacked by the people their families pay to care for them. Seniors that cannot walk or talk, and depend on others for basic needs are being raped and assaulted in nursing homes across the country. CNN researched several cases across the country and in most cases the nursing home was somehow found not to be “at fault” by law, but all failed to take preventive measures to maintain and promote the safety and well-being of the seniors in their care. Most of the cases examined by CNN involved lone actors. But in some cases, a mob mentality fueled the abuse. And it’s not just women who have been victimized.
For months, a group of male nursing aides at a California facility abused and humiliated five male residents — taking videos and photos to share with other staff members. One victim, a 56-year-old with cerebral palsy, was paraded around naked. Another, an elderly man with paralysis who struggled to speak was pinched on his nipples and penis and forced to eat feces out of his adult diapers. He was terrified his abusers would kill him. While the aides lost their certifications, an investigation by Disability Rights California found that many of them never faced charges.
CNN’s analysis found that the nursing homes themselves are a large part of the problem. The article stated that more than 1000 facilities had been cited for failing to investigate and report allegations of sexual abuse thoroughly to authorities or for not properly screening employees for potentially abusive pasts. In most of the cases reviewed by CNN, the caretakers had multiple allegations and the facilities chose to ignore them or actively covering the crimes up instead of doing a thorough investigation. Even those facilities that actively impede investigations or cover up abuse often get little more than a slap on the wrist. The vast majority of nursing homes with horror stories chronicled in the inspection reports are still in business, accepting new residents today. The law requires the nursing facilities to pay a fine, and it is very unlikely that they will no longer receive Medicaid and Medicare, so the nursing facilities are not facing any consequences for their negligence.
CNN reviewed several cases throughout the country, but one of the cases that gained a lot of attention is the sentencing of a male nursing assistant, George Kpingbah, in 2015. Kpingbah was accused and convicted of raping 83-year-old Sonja Fischer. During the case it was revealed the Kpingbah had three other allegations made against him and the nursing facility, Walker Methodist Health Center, and instead of terminating Kpingbah, the facility suspended him each time and allowed him to continue working after the suspension. If Kpingbah was not caught in the act, he would have been able to continue assaulting the residents at Walker Methodist Health Center with no interference from the officials of the health center.
It is obvious that seniors are being taken advantage of in several facilities across the country and they have little to no representation. They are more than likely disabled in some form and their accusations are taken lightly. Hopefully with the work of CNN more accusations will be reviewed thoroughly and action will be taken against the nursing facilities and the perpetrators. Despite the litany of abuses detailed in government reports, there is no comprehensive, national data on how many cases of sexual abuse have been reported in facilities housing the elderly. More than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities (which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities),according to federal data housed by the Administration for Community Living. But agency officials warned that this figure doesn’t capture everything — only those cases in which state long-term care ombudsmen (who act as advocates for facility residents) were somehow involved in resolving the complaints.
Legal advocates, government regulators, criminal investigators and medical experts agree that sexual abuse in nursing homes can be extremely challenging to prevent and detect. But they say many facilities should be doing much more to protect vulnerable residents.
- “When you have a sexual assault claim, you shouldn’t go to a conclusion she’s a problem patient. You should investigate as a sexual assault until proven otherwise.” — Dave Young, district attorney for Colorado’s 17th Judicial District
- “Preserve evidence! Don’t bathe or change clothing, sheets, etc., when an assault is suspected.” — Sherry Culp, Kentucky long-term care ombudsman
- “Most abuse is undetected and never reported mainly because observable signs are missed or misinterpreted. A little training could go a long way.” — Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
- “As with nearly every type of abuse and neglect seen in nursing homes, the better staffed the facility the less likely sexual abuse will occur. This is a crime of opportunity, so the more supervision the better.” — Kirsten Fish, elder abuse attorney
- “There needs to be a reporting system. …The system doesn’t keep track of cases that haven’t been substantiated, [and] their rules for substantiating a complaint are just astronomical. It’s virtually impossible to substantiate a complaint.” — Lt. Chris Chandler, Waynesville, North Carolina, Police Department