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Victims of Sexual Abuse at America’s Nursing Homes Encounter Disbelief Rather than Support

CNN Online

A recent CNN investigation uncovered some disturbing patterns in how nursing home rape and abuse cases are handled by both management and the authorities. Both internal investigation and external reporting appear consistently insufficient.

Victims of Sexual Abuse at America’s Nursing Homes Encounter Disbelief Rather than Support
Photo credit: Ashley Newbrough, Creative Commons license

With victims suffering from Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments, police commonly dismiss reports on account of inconsistent testimonies. Even in cases of repeated abuse allegations against the same caregivers, police have failed to protect victims.

In short, the new investigation has concluded that the system is failing in numerous ways.

Walker Methodist in Minneapolis – People v Kpingbah,  Rape of 83 Year Old

The case of George Kpingbah is a perfect example of mishandled allegations of abuse within the walls of a nursing home. At Kpingbah's sentencing in 2015, the victim's daughter said, with tears in her eyes,

"At 83 years old, unable to speak, unable to fight back, [my mother] was even more vulnerable than she was as a little girl fleeing her homeland. In fact, she was as vulnerable as an infant when she was raped. The dignity which she always displayed during her life, which was already being assaulted so unrelentingly by Alzheimer's disease, was dealt a final devastating blow by this man. The horrific irony is not lost upon me ... that the very thing she feared most as a young girl fleeing [her native Indonesia] happened to her in the final, most vulnerable days of her life."

There had been a witness of Kpingbah’s sexual abuse of the victim, Sonja Fischer, at the Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis. After pleading guilty, Kpingbah was sentenced to eight years in prison.

But if the system worked, if allegations had been taken seriously, Fischer might not have fallen prey to Kpingbah’s unspeakable actions. According to court documents, Kpingbah had previously been suspended three times over repeated accusations of abuse.

Police had even investigated two different sexual assault cases where victims had signaled him as the culprit.

Facility Fails to Act – Police Unbelieving of Elders’ Assault Claims

Instead of firing Kpingbah, the nursing home suspended him. Instead of putting him in jail, law enforcement dismissed the allegations. This is only one case. But it illustrates what may be going on at numerous facilities across America, where the elderly and the disabled can easily fall prey to people like Kpingbah.

Because Walker Methodist had made the abuser go through anti-abuse training, the facility was not accused of wrongdoing. According to other residents who reported assault at the nursing home during Kpingbah’s time there, personnel had been quick to dismiss them as fantasies.

Encountering disbelief when reporting nursing home abuse is extremely common. In another case that took place at Brian Center Health & Rehabilitation in North Carolina, a woman who reported abuse was taken to a psychiatric facility.

Needless to say, her claims were not investigated.

A new approach to nursing home abuse is needed. Both facility personnel and law enforcement need to receive training to end the current mishandling of allegations. And the nursing homes that allow this kind of criminal acts to occur need to be held accountable.

Hopefully the new media interest in this type of abuse will raise awareness and facilitate these desperately needed changes.

If you or a loved one are victims of sexual assault or neglect in a medical or other facility call us right away for a confidential and no-cost consultation with an elder law attorney. 877.858.8018 or Email Us