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Sexual Abuse Allegations in Nursing Homes Largely Unprosecuted

An investigation by the Chicago Tribune has found that of the 86 cases of sexual abuse and violence reported within Chicago nursing homes since July of 2007 only one has resulted in an arrest. The investigation determined that rape or other sexual assault allegations were reported in about 30 nursing homes in and around the city. While the bulk of the reported abuse cases alleged abuse by fellow residents, there were also reports of abuse at the hands of nursing home employees.

One speculated reason for the proliferation of nursing home sexual abuse in Chicago is Illinois’ use of nursing homes to house psychiatric patients with sometimes violent criminal records. The Tribune study found that the 30 Chicago facilities that reported rapes were twice as likely to house mentally ill patients and convicted felons as other nursing homes. Of the 23 Chicago nursing homes which the federal government has investigated for substandard staffing levels, 21 were rated ‘below’ or ‘well below’ average staffing levels.

The stunning lack of prosecution has been linked to several factors. Some experts point to the fact that many sexual abuse victims suffer from dementia and delusions which render them unable to assist investigators. Others contend that many of the sexual abuse victims are afraid of speaking out due to the proximity of the abusers, fear of alienating the caregivers, and anxiety about facing police questions and forensic examination. Still others have pointed the finger at the nursing homes themselves which have reported many of the incidents as ‘consensual’.

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