It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.
Nursing home abuse and neglect takes many forms. In some cases an elderly patient has untreated bed sores or unexplained injuries. In other scenarios the abuse is not physical but financial–i.e., someone on the nursing home’s staff is stealing a resident’s money or taking their possessions. And in still other situations the abuse takes an even more sinister form–sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse often goes unreported in society at-large. And the problem is only compounded when the victims are nursing home residents who may be unable to speak for themselves. Indeed, a recent case from Arizona of nursing home sexual abuse gained national attention after it was exposed in perhaps the most shocking manner possible.
Woman In Vegetative State Gives Birth Following Undetected Rape, Pregnancy
On January 4, 2019, a CBS television station in Phoenix reported that a female nursing home patient “recently became pregnant and gave birth.” What made this suspicious was that the woman has been in a “vegetative state” for the past decade. Nursing home staff claimed they did not even know the resident was pregnant until “she was moaning” just before going into labor.
An unnamed source told CBS that the resident “required around-the-clock care and many would have access to her room.” The source added that the resident had no way to defend herself from an attacker and could not even “communicate the fact she was pregnant” to anyone. In response to this horrific incident, the source said the nursing home planned to amend its policies to require a female staff member to accompany a male staffers into a female resident’s room.
More than two weeks after the CBS report, on January 23, Phoenix Police announced they had arrested a suspect in the case. Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old nurse at the nursing home has been charged with raping and impregnating the resident. Police reportedly matched a DNA sample taken from the resident’s baby to one taken from the suspect. The nursing home fired the suspect immediately following the arrest. The suspect is currently being held in jail on $500,000 bail.
Update, February 5, 2019: Sutherland pled not guilty in court on Tuesday (February 5) to the sexual assault charge. He is expected to appear in trial again for a pretrial conference on March 19, 2019. The facility in which the alleged crime took place, Hacienda Healthcare, has since hired a third-party human services company to oversee operations for the foreseeable future.
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Is a National Problem
Vox noted in a follow-up report that while cases of nursing home staffers raping and impregnating patients are rare–but not unprecedented–“less extreme” cases of sexual abuse “are more common” and “often don’t get as much attention as they deserve.” For example, Vox cited “other complaints of sexual misconduct at the same Arizona facility where the latest pregnancy occurred.” And in 2017, the Kansas City Star discovered that the federal government “has cataloged more than 20,000 complaints of sexual abuse at long-term care facilities over 20 years–a rate of nearly three such complaints a day.”
The truth is that sexual abuse is still a widely under-reported and under-addressed problem in America’s nursing homes. And nursing home residents in the Cleveland area are not immune. If you have a loved one in a nursing or long-term care facility and you have reason to suspect they have been the victim of sexual abuse, contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 today. Our elder abuse lawyers serve clients in Cleveland, Lakewood, Elyria, Chardon, Sandusky and surrounding areas.