Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sexual Abuse of Dependent Adults in California

Sexual abuse of dependent adults in California is a much more widespread phenomena than I think most people believe or want to accept.  As an attorney that has almost 20 years experience representing the victims of sexual assault and abuse, I can say that I have seen too many cases where adults who are either elderly or mentally or physically incapacitated being sexually abused.  The perpetrators of this abuse, unfortunately, are usually those charged with the care of these most vulnerable in our society.

How Does California Define a "Dependent Adult"?

California Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610, et.seq. defines a "dependent adult" as any person 65 years old or older or any person between the ages of 18 and 64 who has any mental of physical incapacity that inhibits his or her ability to care for his or herself.

What does CA Law Do To Protect Dependent Adults from Sexual Abuse?

If a person is found to have inflicted physical harm or mental suffering upon a dependent adult, that elder or physically or mentally incapacitated person has enhanced civil remedies under the laws of the State of California.  This includes the right to file a civil claim for damages against both the perpetrator and any institution that negligently hires, trains, supervises or retains that individual.  Remedies include compensation for the victim, punitive damages and attorneys fees and costs for having to prosecute any such claims.

What type of abuse does this law encompass?

The law, as drafted, was meant to provide broad protections for many classes of persons.  These can include the following:

  • Sexual abuse of elderly residents in nursing homes and assisted care facilities
  • Sexual assault of physically incapacitated patients in hospitals, clinics, and mental health facilities
  • Rape of mentally incapacitated or mentally ill persons in the custodial care of any type of facility  

Importance of Consulting and Retaining California Attorneys Familiar With Dependent Adult Abuse Claims

In my experience, these claims can be some of the most difficult cases to prove.  There is usually immediate denial of the allegations and an attempt to "cover up" what took place and how much the nursing home, hospital or other facility staff and management knew about the sexually inappropriate behavior and prior allegations of sexual assault or abuse. It is crucial to conduct prompt and thorough investigation and discovery of all of the facts and evidence including obtaining information from witnesses and other victims.  Retaining legal counsel familiar with these claims if vital to the preservation of the evidence and an ultimate successful resolution by way of settlement or verdict.

Additional Resources:

Attorney for Victims of Dependent Adult Abuse in California