In Washington State an 83 year old dementia patient was raped, and it was caught on film. The family of the victim had suspected abuse and so they set up a hidden camera. The result was a video of the facility’s owner sexually attacking the elderly woman. Authorities arrested the man, shut down the facilities he owned and ran, and sent all remaining patients to the hospital to be checked for signs of abuse. This instance was handled with swift action, but sadly this is the exception to the rule.
A study was done in Chicago nursing homes and found that over a two-and-a-half year period authorities investigated 86 cases involving sexual assault of a resident. Of those cases, only one led to an arrest. Eighty-five people were reported as victims of sexual assault and found no justice. The study found that the vast majority of these crimes were perpetrated by another resident who forced his way into a woman’s room or abused her while staff was not nearby. Incidentally, the one case that was actually prosecuted was one in which a staff member was accused. Outside of nursing homes, Chicago police make approximately one arrest for every three reports of sexual assault filed. There is a huge disconnect between typical arrest patterns and those in nursing homes.
The study dug a little deeper into the locations where assaults were reported. Instances of rape were found to be reported from only 30 of the 119 communities in Chicago, and these particular locations were twice as likely to have residents who were felons or mentally ill. They also have substandard staffing as compared to those where rapes were not reported. A picture is painted of predators roaming around unchecked, terrorizing the elderly, the sick, and the helpless.
In one instance, a 28 year old man confessed to beating and raping a schizophrenic elderly woman in the facility where he lived. The woman corroborated the story at the time, but was not as cooperative later in the investigation. Despite the confession and physical evidence to back it up, no arrest was made.
Another case involves a dementia patient in hospice care. A call reporting sexual abuse was made to the nursing station of the facility in which she lived. The head nurse did nothing for one whole day. The victim was bathed, her clothes were laundered, and her room was cleaned – in other words, the evidence was removed. The alleged perpetrator was allowed to continue caregiving duties in the area where the victim lived. After a full day, the patient was sent to the hospital for a routine physical, not for a suspicion of assault. It was only when the hospital declined (she was not due for her exam) did the story come out. Even then, the nurse only called authorities after the hospital threatened to do so themselves.
Cases like these are fraught with problems for law enforcement. Victims are often mentally ill, afraid for their safety (as they live with the rapist), or unwilling to cooperate. However, it is appalling and unacceptable to allow this type of behavior to go unchecked, especially in cases where the supposed caregivers are turning a blind eye to the problem. Instances where staff members impede the investigation should be treated extremely harshly. Losing a job or a license is not enough; there ought to be criminal culpability for helping a predator to escape.