Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes is Rarely Discussed, But Nevertheless a Reality
Sexual abuse of the elderly is rarely discussed and one of the most underreported crimes in the US. A New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study showed that for every case known to agencies, twenty-four were unknown. This terrible crime goes largely unreported because the victims might feel ashamed, fear retaliation or lack the cognitive ability to report. Victims often doubt anyone will believe them and simply see no sense in telling. One of the challenges of elder sexual abuse is that it is usually denied by the one who committed it, and forensic evidence is sometimes destroyed or lost.
Some of the victims, however, do report assault to their nursing homes, and in some cases only to undergo more embarrassment and bad treatment. Such was the case of an 89-year-old rape victim.
Andrew Scott Merzwski was sentenced in February 2014 to fifty-three months in jail for the sexual assault of the elderly woman in Edgewood Vista Nursing Home. Merzwski admitted having sex with the lady. Another upsetting incident is that the Edgewood’s clinical services director Marilyn Moore alleged the sexual deed was consensual, and the elderly flirted mercilessly with Merzwski.
Nurse examiner Theresa Flesvig said that she was shocked that the blame was being placed so blatantly on the victim. When Flesvig performed a full rape examination on the elderly, she found the biggest tear she has ever seen. Shortly after the victim’s daughter reported the assault to the police, the woman was transferred to a hospital in Duluth. She was locked up in a cold and dark room with one blanket for three days at the fragile age of 89.
Sexual Abuse is a Reality
According to a congressional report prepared by the minority staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, there were cases of sexual abuse committed by staff members and by other residents. Sexual assault or rape could occur from another resident suffering from dementia. The report stated that some staff members failed to protect people from sexual abuse by other residents.
Another disturbing incident took place on November 24, 2013, at Amber Park Nursing Home on E. Galbraith Road. Samuel Onyenweaku, 22-year-old man of West Chester, penetrated a 92-year-old woman and was charged with felonious assault, rape and patient abuse. When a nurse unlocked the door of the victim just before 5 a.m., she found the victim lying in bed with her nightgown pulled up. The elderly was not wearing any undergarments at the time. The nurse stated that there was men’s clothing on the floor, and she found the accused in the woman’s private bathroom. The victim was admitted at the UC Medical Center, and Onyenweaku was arrested and has been held in the Hamilton County Justice Center.
Nursing assistant Nanic Aidasani of Yonkers was charged with rape at Manhattanville Health Care Center at 311 W. 231st Street, Kingsbridge, Bronx. Another employer at the nursing home found Aidasani raping a 64-year-old woman in her room at the nursing home. The victim is unable to speak because of a stroke, and it is expected that Aidasani will be charged with second degree rape against the woman who was incapable of giving consent.
On May 7, 2014, a certified nursing assistant of 84 Main Street, Great Barrington, was charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of rape. Parkpoom Seesangrit raped a 69-year-old woman. According to Sergeant Patrick Manley, the 24-year-old accused was found in a room with the victim under inappropriate circumstances. The defendant was requested to surrender his passport and is currently held in place of $500, 000 cash. Seesangrit is ordered to appear in Palmer District Court.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Even a broken limb should not be overlooked if it occurred under suspicious circumstances. Older people are also more likely to suffer soft-tissue injury. Physical signs of sexual abuse include lack of appetite, anal or venereal bleeding and/or marks on inner thighs, infections, pain in the genital area, difficulty standing or walking and sometimes the worsening of an existing illness. Research indicates that people suffering dementia are at greater risk of sexual abuse than those without.
Our Elderly Deserves Our Care and Respect
The elderly deserve to be treated with care and respect. Unfortunately, often staff members at nursing homes earn minimum wages and they go from one job to the next. Some nursing homes also fail to properly screen potential employees. The employee may have a history of sexual abuse.
There are 17,000 nursing homes nationwide, accommodating around 1.6 million people. CNN reports that more than ninety percent of all nursing-home facilities in the United States are understaffed. One out of every three nursing homes reported elderly abuse. Three percent of nursing home abuse involved sexual abuse. Trying to find a healthcare facility that keeps old people’s dignity intact can be quite a challenge.