Patients go to hospitals expecting proper care, respect, and professionalism from the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. Unfortunately, being under the care and treatment of others leaves many patients in a highly vulnerable state, especially when they have physical limitations or are experiencing side effects of medication. Sadly, some employees take advantage of their patients’ vulnerability and engage in acts of sexual violence, sexual misconduct, and physical abuse.
When a hospital does not do its job to protect and care for the patients in their facility, resulting in sexual assault or rape, that hospital can potentially share responsibility for the harm to the patient. Contacting a law firm with years of experience representing survivors of sexual assault in medical facilities is essential to help support your claim and seek justice against the sexual predator.
How common is sex abuse in hospitals?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a study using public records from every state. After analyzing more than 100,000 disciplinary documents and other records filed since January 1, 1999, reporters identified more than 3,100 doctors facing public discipline after being accused of sexual infractions. Of these 3,100 doctors, more than 2,400 received discipline for violations involving patients.
Out of the 100,000 records evaluated, over 90,000 disciplinary documents reflected disciplinary actions for offenses not including sexual assault. Still, that number does not reflect the many survivors who choose not to report sexual assault crimes, the claims found to be uncredible by the evaluating medical boards, or the number of violations not resulting in sanctions for the doctors or other medical providers.
Sex Abuse Happening in Hospitals
There are many cases of sexual abuse happening in hospitals and psychiatric facilities that make headlines, including:
- In Salt Lake City, Utah, a nurse’s assistant at a children’s hospital entered an 11-year-old child’s room, lifted his hospital gown, and sexually molested him in 2013. The nurse’s assistance was immediately suspended and later terminated by the hospital because the young survivor courageously reported the abuse.
- In Missouri, one doctor asked a patient about her sexual preferences when treating her for urinary problems. After asking her questions about her preferences, he told her that he became aroused. He surrendered his license, an example that sexual assault by a doctor does not have to involve physical touch or sexual contact.
- At Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Florida, a nurse sexually touched a female patient throughout the duration of an inpatient stay in September 2011.
- In an unusual sexual assault case at a hospital, a man in the Bronx snuck into an elderly woman’s hospital room, sexually abusing her with her roommate present. It was not an employee of the hospital that harmed the woman, but the hospital was responsible for caring for and protecting the victim, and their failure to do so makes them liable for the woman’s resulting harm.
- In New Kent County, Virginia, 20 former patients at a children’s hospital filed a lawsuit claiming that the former medical director inappropriately touched young female patients during routine exams. The lawsuit also claimed that other employees and patients both physically and sexually abused other patients.
- A hospital system fired a certified nursing assistant employed with CoxHealth in Missouri after the employee faced charges of sodomy, sexual abuse, and elder abuse. The 75-year-old patient told police that the employee came into his room, offered him a bath, and closed the curtain around his hospital bed before performing sexual acts on the patient and forcing the patient to perform sexual acts on him. The employee was removed from patient care when CoxHealth learned of the allegations, and the health system later terminated the accused sexual abuser.
In what part of hospitals do most sex abuse incidents happen?
Sexual assault incidents can occur anywhere in a hospital, involving medical personnel from any practice area. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s study, some victims of sexual assault are under sedation when the harm happens. Other wronged patients didn’t immediately know that sexual abuse was happening, believing that their doctor was engaging in legitimate medical care, and some were children.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault, most patients are more susceptible to abuse when receiving treatment at psychiatric hospitals, wings, or wards. One 1994 study found that, in a survey of 255 directors of psychiatric hospitals, between 1985 and 1991, 36% of units reported patient allegations of sexual assault by a staff member.
Who are the perpetrators of hospital sex abuse?
Statistics show that hospital employees, including caregiving staff, such as nurses, doctors, and therapists, and support staff, such as technicians or transporters, make up the majority of perpetrators of hospital sex abuse. These positions tend to allow more close proximity interactions between employees and patients, giving sexual abusers more opportunities to commit these acts.
Those in positions of power commonly commit sexual assaults. Hospital employees’ roles heighten this imbalance of power due to patients’ innately vulnerable states, especially children, adolescents, and the elderly, and the close and sometimes intimate physical interaction needed to carry out medical treatments and procedures. Patients place a great deal of trust in their healthcare providers who can sometimes take advantage of or abuse that trust.
Who is responsible for hospital sex abuse?
When hospitals do not fulfill their duty to protect their patients in their care, they may be liable for resulting hospital sexual abuse. A common claim asserted in lawsuits, respondeat superior, centers on the idea that a party is responsible for their employees’ acts, but it’s not usually a successful claim. In previous lawsuits, many courts found that the perpetrator’s actions of hospital sex abuse did not fall within the scope of their employment, a required element of respondeat superior, thereby voiding potential liability on the employer’s part.
The most successful claims asserted on behalf of the victim are for administrative negligence in hiring practices or supervision protocols. The hospital can be liable under a negligent hiring theory for failure to conduct pre-employment background checks or validate necessary details of the applicant and perform other pre-employment steps that support caution and accountability when vetting potential employees.
The hospital can also share liability under a negligent supervision theory for failure to reasonably act in response to the dangers that employees pose or for failure to establish policies and procedures that ensure uniform care and patient treatment.
Under a negligence claim, the claimant must show that the party at fault owed a duty to the injured party, that there was a breach of that duty, that the breach was the cause of the wronged party’s injury, and that the breach caused damage to the injured party. The best argument to make to show that the hospital was negligent for sexual assault is to prove that the incident was foreseeable since the hospital was administratively negligent in hiring or supervising its employees.
Do hospitals cover up abuse cases?
Previous lawsuits and investigations discovered that hospitals sometimes cover up sexual abuse happening in their health facilities. In many cases, the hospitals denied the allegations, claiming that the patient experienced post-anesthesia or medication-induced hallucinations.
Hospitals conspiring to cover up their employees’ crimes often claim that patients simply misunderstood routine care due to inadequate explanations of what will or will not be occurring in the process. Other times, there’s a lack of documentation within the hospital. Unfortunately, when seldom reported, allegations of hospital sexual abuse are rarely passed along to law enforcement because the hospital administration refuses to believe the patient.
The general idea in a hospital is a “code of silence” when it comes to sexual assault by hospital employees to maintain the public belief that such heinous incidents are rare and support major health systems’ pristine reputations.
Despite some efforts by hospitals to cover up allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault attorneys are knowledgeable and skilled in this sensitive area of law. They can handle communications with hospitals and healthcare systems to ensure survivors of hospital sex abuse can seek justice and compensation.
How can hospitals prevent the sexual abuse of their patients?
Hospitals can take various steps to prevent the sexual abuse of their patients, including better vetting processes for applicants and potential new hires via background checks and validation of qualifications and credentials. The hospital can also implement better training programs for new and existing hires that help employees recognize the warning signs of abuse or red flags raised by other employees’ actions or behaviors.
Hospitals should have clear and straightforward reporting policies so that patients and other employees can quickly and efficiently report someone who exhibits warning behaviors of sexual abuse or engages in sexual assault. When implementing and enforcing hospital sex abuse reporting policies, the hospital must emphasize and ensure that all employees understand the importance of documenting other employees’ wrongful, inappropriate, or questionable actions.
After reporting employee behaviors consistent with hospital sex abuse, it’s equally important that hospitals have clear and uniform investigative procedures, so every report is handled in the same manner, regardless of the employee reporting or being reported.
How can a hospital sexual abuse attorney help me?
Hospital sexual abuse attorneys can provide the necessary advice, helping you make decisions regarding your claim and guidance to help you proceed through the legal system to seek justice. Your attorney acts as the middle man or your advocate to carry out your legal wishes and make your voice heard. Often, the legal system can feel overwhelming, especially for a survivor of hospital sexual abuse navigating the nuances of both the court and health systems.
After you meet with and hire a hospital sexual abuse attorney, you will likely discuss a strategy for your specific case and a plan to execute it. After determining a strategy and developing a roadmap to get you compensated for your injuries, your attorney will collect and preserve evidence to support your claim, helping to establish a successful outcome.
What evidence do I need to prove my hospital sex abuse claim?
Gathering evidence to prove your hospital sexual abuse claim may seem daunting since it requires tangible documentation, reports, and information that, typically, only the hospital can access. Your sexual abuse attorney knows the best methods for getting the relevant evidence you need that will be beneficial to your validating your claim.
Evidence you might need includes:
- The perpetrator’s employment information and personnel file from HR or their department
- HR policies and procedures involved in hiring, including background checks, verification of credentials, interviews, employment reference checks, etc
- Incident reports involving the perpetrator in general and your case specifically, including all investigation notes and any police reports
- All patient allegations occurring within the past three years, including other reports of sexual assault and notes or disciplinary actions resulting from those investigations, and copies of statements made to law enforcement or other agencies
- All hospital policies and procedures, documentation of responses to allegations, and witness testimonies
- Any proof of physical injuries, including medical records and medications or subscriptions you now require
- Any evidence to support your claim that punitive damages are necessary and warranted
- Anything else that your attorney deems essential to help establish your claim
Acquiring and compiling all this information and documentation can seem like an impossible task, especially for a survivor of sexual assault in a medical facility. A hospital sexual abuse attorney can help.
Sexual assault survivors deserve to be able to seek justice and financial compensation for their injuries sustained in a place meant to protect them. Your lawyer can handle the needed and sometimes overwhelming details to help you pursue your civil lawsuit and receive the justice you require to advance your recovery and healing.
How long do I have to file a claim?
When filing any lawsuit, statutes of limitations impose a time limit establishing the period during which a claimant can initiate legal proceedings against another person. The statute of limitations specific to hospital sex abuse claims varies by state and by the claim, making it that much more vital that you speak with a sexual assault attorney to file your lawsuit as soon as possible. Doing so can keep you from finding yourself barred by time restraints so you can better ensure you can seek the justice and financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Should I contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney?
If you or a family member experienced sexual abuse while being treated in a hospital, it’s imperative to contact a sexual abuse attorney as soon as possible to learn about your legal rights. The attorneys at Herman Law are a legal team of compassionate, knowledgeable lawyers with years of experience who can help support your claim, seek justice for your assault, increase your chances of receiving fair compensation, and provide you with resources to assist in your continued recovery. Contact Herman Law now for a free case evaluation. No one should have to deal with the aftermath of hospital sex abuse alone.