Residential Care Facilities Sexual Abuse Lawyers in Pennsylvania
Residential care facilities in Pennsylvania – whether intended for children or the elderly – should be safe havens where residents feel safe and protected at all times.
While this is true in the majority of cases, an alarmingly high number of instances of sexual abuse have come to light at residential care facilities in the state in recent years.
Society’s most vulnerable have not been getting the protection they deserve from the Philadelphia care system, and a lack of oversight and accountability has contributed to more sexual abuse cases than most people would imagine.
Predators of vulnerable patients in care facilities should be behind bars, but all too often they have been allowed to continue their crimes due to a lack of awareness and action.
At Andreozzi & Foote, our sexual abuse lawyers can help you take the necessary steps towards criminal and/or civil justice if you are a victim of residential care abuse in Pennsylvania.
UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse
Table of Contents
- Society’s most vulnerable: targeted for sexual abuse
- What are residential care facilities in Pennsylvania?
- Unsafe environments for children in residential care facilities
- What is the prevalence of sexual abuse in residential care facilities in the U.S.?
- What types of sexual abuse occur in residential facilities?
- Why are residents in long-term care at a high risk of sexual abuse?
- Can you sue a facility if you were sexually abused?
Society’s most vulnerable: targeted for sexual abuse
Intellectually and developmentally disabled children and the elderly and infirm are some of society’s most vulnerable people. They require close contact with caregivers and should be entitled to a care system that recognizes this and provides ample protection.
Sometimes, largely due to poor hiring practices, a lack of supervision, and a poor system of accountability, sexual predators have been unwittingly facilitated to commit their crimes at these institutions.
Often, children or elderly victims of sexual abuse are unable to speak up or are fearful of doing so, meaning that the perpetrators can continue unchecked unless the facility has introduced the necessary checks and balances to detect the warning signs.
What are residential care facilities in Pennsylvania?
A residential care facility provides long-time care for individuals requiring full-time or partial assistance with day-to-day living as well as, in some cases, medical care.
Such individuals are usually incapable of living at home and the family may decide to place them in assisted living facilities, board and care homes, residential homes, nursing homes, or a continuing care retirement community.
Unsafe environments for children in residential care facilities
Because of unfortunate circumstances or a disability, children are often placed in short or long-term residential care facilities in Pennsylvania.
This affects more children than most people realize: 3,700 youngsters were in Pennsylvania foster care in residential facilities in 2017 (almost half of all children in foster care in the state).
However, the Children’s Rights and the Education Law Center-PA have expressed deep concerns in the past about the safety of some of these facilities and the potential for sexual abuse to occur while in foster homes.
A report, entitled Unsafe and Uneducated: Indifference to Dangers in Pennsylvania’s Residential Child Welfare Facilities shines a light on some of these issues. The main findings of the report include:
- Children were physically maltreated or restrained on frequent occasions between 2010 and 2018
- A total of 44 percent of reviewed residential facilities had repeat violations for physical or sexual abuse by staff or other children
- Laws protecting the rights of children in foster care are often ignored
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is responsible for overseeing foster care arrangements, but it seems that children frequently suffer verbal, physical, and sexual abuse from staff and other children in these facilities.
What is the prevalence of sexual abuse in residential care facilities in the U.S.?
There is no national database for sexual crimes in long-term care facilities and no precise figures for sexual abuse prevalence in Pennsylvania facilities. It is, therefore, difficult to be exact but the following indicates how widespread the problem is:
- In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that sexual abuse was the least reported type of abuse in residential care facilities.
- In the past 20 years, victims have reported 20,000 claims of sexual assault by staff and visitors to the Administration for Community Living, which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (an average of three per day).
- In a CNN investigation into U.S. nursing facilities, over 500 homes were cited for failing to investigate abuse claims and employing staff previously convicted of abusive sexual conduct.
- Women are at the highest risk of sexual abuse crimes, especially those with mental health illnesses, such as dementia.
What types of sexual abuse occur in residential facilities?
Sexual abuse of children or the elderly in residential care facilities includes forms of abuse involving physical contact with the victim and no physical contact.
Abuse involving contact with the victim includes:
- Rape or attempted rape
- Penetration using the penis/fingers
- Sodomy (using an object)
- Fondling or inappropriate touching
Non-contact sexual abuse includes:
- Exposing oneself
- Forcing masturbation of a resident
- Taking sexually explicit images/videos
- Talking with a child about sex
- Trafficking children
Why are residents in long-term care at a high risk of sexual abuse?
Children and elderly individuals who can no longer look after their own day-to-day care are sometimes placed in long-term care to ease the burden on families.
The combination of the vulnerability of such individuals and the position of trust that these facilities enjoy in the minds of families combine to make them a fertile breeding ground for abuse to occur.
Because of the explicit duty of care that employees at such facilities have, few people suspect that sexual predators are lurking among them. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Such facilities may attract predators and families need to be on their guard.
The lack of a national database of sexual crimes in residential care facilities, together with poor hiring and vetting practices and inadequate resources for residents, loved ones and facilities to track and deal with the abuse, keeps the problem largely hidden from public view. Therefore, little tends to be done about it.
This all means that residents in long-term care facilities are not protected adequately from harm by the very system that is designed to keep them safe.
Can you sue a facility if you were sexually abused?
If you or a loved one were a victim of sexual abuse while you were resident in a care facility in Pennsylvania, do not hesitate to report the incident and check what your legal options are.
Rest assured that if you contact the lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote, all the information you provide will be treated confidentially, including your identity.
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