On November 13th in Auburn, WA, the owner of a long term care facility for adults was arrested for sexually abusing an elderly female resident at the facility. The assault was caught on tape, because the woman’s family was concerned about her safety and installed a hidden camera in her room. Many of the facility’s residents suffer from dementia and have barriers to communicating clearly, so it is uncertain whether more residents were abused. They have all been removed from the home and are being assessed.
We know that the rates of sexual assault among this population are very high, and that their environment may be one thing that leaves them more vulnerable to abuse. It is important to consider and acknowledge the number of sexual assaults that are not caught on tape and go unreported. There are many systemic problems that intersect and contribute to the sexual assaults of facility-dependent adults. It is increasingly challenging for survivors of these crimes to tell their stories. They are often perceived as lacking credibility. The existing systems in place are not set up to respond to the needs of these survivors and their families.
This is just one example of the reasons why the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault (WCSAP) has committed to partnering on a multi-year grant with Disability Rights Washington and the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, to address the needs of people in long term care facilities like this one.