Sexual assault and abuse incidents are always tragedies but can be of increasing concern when the victims are particularly vulnerable, weak, or unable to communicate what is happening to them. Unfortunately, this is the case for many victims of sexual abuse in Maryland nursing homes and hospitals. Although nursing homes and hospitals are supposed to take care of their residents and keep them safe, staff in these facilities may take advantage of residents sexually. In fact, a 2017 report found that more than 1,000 nursing homes across the country had been cited for failing to prevent sex abuse at their facilities, or for mishandling the reports.
The problem can, of course, affect the elderly who are spending their final days in a nursing home and require continual care. But a recent news report details that sexual abuse can occur to patients of all ages, including those who are young but significantly disabled or weakened. According to the report, there have been instances of sexual abuse in hospitals and nursing homes across the nation, with victims ranging in age. One 61-year-old woman, unable to speak from a tube in her throat, eventually communicated to her daughters that she had been abused by an EKG technician. Another victim, 29 years old and severely disabled, was found to have been sexually abused by one of her nurses.
Anytime an individual is sexually abused, Maryland law allows them to bring a civil suit both against the perpetrator and against a larger responsible party. When the abuse happens in a nursing home or a hospital, the victim or their loved ones can bring a civil suit against the institution for failing to take adequate steps to protect against sexual abuse. These institutions have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure their residents are protected, but many still fail to handle complaints in a timely manner or investigate allegations. In order to prevail in a civil suit against one of these institutions, a victim or their loved one must prove to the court that the defendant had a duty to protect the victim, that they either did something or failed to do something that breached that duty, that their breach directly caused the victim’s injuries, and that the victim suffered actual injuries. While this process seems straightforward, the intricacies of the law can at times be confusing to victims and their families, particularly if they are still dealing with the aftermath of abuse. Potential plaintiffs are advised to consult with attorneys with experience in this area of law, who can take the case off their hands so they can focus on healing.