Austin Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Whether they live at home or in an assisted living center, our elders deserve the utmost respect and dignity in their golden years. While the mere thought of these older adults being sexually abused is abhorrent, such abuse remains a genuine concern for seniors, families, and caregivers in Austin. The only way to prevent this heinous behavior in the future is to demand that it be punished with the full force of the law. That’s where Austin, TX, elder sexual abuse attorneys can help.
If your loved one faced sexual abuse at the hands of a care worker, they deserve justice for the harm they suffered. Elder sexual abuse is a crime in Texas and can carry severe penalties. However, survivors and their loved ones may also be able to pursue a civil case against an abuser or negligent facility. This can provide them with financial compensation for a range of losses as well as a necessary sense that justice has been done.
The team at Loewy Law Firm works with seniors and their families to pursue accountability and demand fair financial compensation on their behalves. Attorney Adam Loewy brings decades of experience and a dedicated, empathetic approach to elder abuse cases, and he is ready to put them to work for your family. Contact us today for a no-cost case review with one of our Austin nursing home abuse lawyers.
What Constitutes Elder Sexual Abuse in Texas
A recent meta-analysis of nine studies found that 1.9% of surveyed nursing home residents reported witnessing sexual abuse. Researchers believe that significantly more acts of sexual abuse are perpetrated but go unreported.
In Texas, elder sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted sexual conduct with an individual over 65 years of age. For example, it can involve:
- Any non-consensual sexual touch, up to and including rape
- Inappropriate hugs, kisses, or “romantic” behavior toward the elder
- Forcing an elder to watch or participate in sexual acts
- Forcing an elder to watch sexual behavior, including pornographic photos or videos
- Taking photos or recordings of sexual conduct with or in the presence of an elder
- A care worker exposing themselves to an elder
Any form of sexual abuse often involves a skewed power dynamic. An abusive nursing home employee will use their authority within the relationship and the facility to initiate or continue their behavior. Nursing home residents are at particular risk due to this power disparity. Older adults may not be able to pull away or fight back against abusive acts. In some cases, they may not remember abuse occurring or struggle to communicate the abuse they suffered to others.
Signs of Elder Sexual Abuse
Those committing elder sexual abuse typically attempt to hide their behavior. Even nursing homes themselves may downplay or conceal elder sexual abuse at their facilities, endeavoring to preserve their public reputation and avoid costly lawsuits and the declining enrollment numbers they lead to.
A worker or representative might claim that the resident is not of sound mind and is fabricating their account of what happened. They might also hide or destroy tangible evidence pointing to individual incidents.
However, some signs of elder sexual abuse are difficult to cover up. They include:
- Unexplained bleeding, bruising, or other injuries – An elder who was sexually abused may display bleeding or bruising, especially in or near the groin or breast areas. They may also have other injuries that a caregiver or facility cannot explain.
- Unexplained medical diagnoses – Elder sexual abuse survivors may have been diagnosed with new infections or sexually-transmitted diseases with no reasonable explanation.
- Behavioral changes – Sexual abuse survivors of all ages are at higher risk for depression and anxiety. They may have a less stable mood or withdraw from social settings they previously enjoyed. The emotional trauma of abuse can also lead to flashbacks.
- Stained clothes – Blood-stained garments, especially undergarments, could be a sign of sexual abuse.
- Fear and anxiety – Ongoing abuse may be the reason an elder is visibly afraid or anxious around particular caregivers or in specific locations.
Identifying and preventing elder sexual abuse begins with vigilant families, residents, and care workers. If you see signs of abuse, do not wait to report them or contact Austin, TX, elder sexual abuse attorneys about your concerns.
Mandatory Reporting of Elder Sexual Abuse
Texas has a mandatory reporting law to protect elders from sexual abuse. Anyone who suspects that a nursing home resident or home care patient over 65 has been the victim of abusive behavior must submit an oral or written report to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services as soon as possible.
An elder abuse report should include the following key information:
- The elder’s name and location
- The names of the elder’s caregivers
- The address of the elder’s nursing home or assisted living facility (if applicable)
- The current condition of the elder
- Why you have reason to suspect abuse is occurring
It is important to note that the mandatory reporting law applies to everyone, including family members, caregivers, doctors, lawyers, religious leaders, and therapists. Even if someone receives knowledge of suspected elder abuse in confidence, they must submit a report to comply with the law.
Who is to Blame in an Elder Sexual Abuse Case?
Elder sexual abuse is a criminal offense. After you file a report with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, you or the nursing home may contact the local police. Law enforcement will determine if there is sufficient evidence for the abuser to face prosecution. Separately, you and your loved one can hold the abuser liable in civil court, which can provide your family with compensation for losses like:
- Medical bills related to the physical effects of the abuse
- Necessary psychiatric care
- Costs associated with rehoming your loved one
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
However, liability for elder sexual abuse does not necessarily end with the abuser themselves. In some cases, nursing homes or home care providers may bear responsibility for their workers’ conduct. For example, you may be able to pursue a civil case against the facility or company if:
- They did not run a background check before hiring the abuser.
- They hired the abuser in spite of prior misconduct.
- They did not respond adequately to previous allegations of sexual abuse by an employee, volunteer, or resident.
Contact Our Austin, TX, Elder Sexual Abuse Attorneys
If your loved one suffered the trauma of elder sexual abuse, turn to the compassionate team at Loewy Law Firm for help. Let us investigate the circumstances and fight to hold the abusers and their enablers accountable for their actions. Contact our firm today for a free case review, and learn more about your legal options.