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Institutional Sexual Abuse: Hospitals And Mental Health Care Facilities

Tragically, sexual abuse in hospitals and mental health care facilities is all too common. The patients in these facilities are extremely vulnerable, making the abuse even more reprehensible. Doctors, nurses, and employees in these institutions are held to a very high standard of care, and should never take advantage of the individuals they are responsible for protecting.

Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in Hospitals and Psychiatric Facilities

In at least three major United States cities, investigators have uncovered widespread or extremely troublesome sexual abuse in psychiatric facilities. In 2009, a yearlong investigation by the Department of Justice revealed a pattern of sexual abuse, severe mistreatment, and violent assaults in a city-run hospital in Brooklyn. In 2010, the Chicago Tribune identified at least 18 cases of reported rape or sexual abuse against children at some of the most prominent psychiatric facilities in Chicago. In Las Vegas, a Nevada state psychiatric facility was fined for failing to prevent a female patient from repeated rapes by a male patient with known violent tendencies. 

Statistics also show that children with disabilities are nearly three times more likely than their non-disabled peers to suffer from sexual abuse. Children with mental and intellectual disabilities are the most at risk, and are victimized at rates 4.6 times those of their peers without disabilities. Disabled children in hospitals and mental health care facilities are therefore especially susceptible to sexual assault.

Do You Suspect Abuse?

If your child has been a patient in a hospital or psychiatric facility, know the signs of child molestation and you if suspect that he or she may have been abused, take these steps to protect your child’s safety and legal rights.

  • CALL THE POLICE. Do not call the hospital or mental health care facility directly. Call the police right away, and tell them that you suspect your child may have been abused while under the care of a hospital or psychiatric facility. The police can investigate your child’s claims. Calling the hospital or mental health care facility directly may lead to the destruction of evidence or further mistreatment of your child.
  • SUPPORT YOUR CHILD. Talk to your child about the potential abuse in a non-judgmental way. If your child discloses sexual abuse, remind your child that what happened was not his or her fault. Keep the lines of communication open, and tell your child that you will do whatever it takes to support him or her.
  • GATHER RECORDS. Gather any records you have that pertain to your child’s care at the hospital or psychiatric treatment center. These records may contain important evidence related to the abuse that took place in the facility.
  • CONTACT AN ATTORNEY. Sexual abuse against patients in a hospital or psychiatric facility is a crime. The police department and prosecutor’s office will handle the criminal charges against your child’s abuser. You may also be able to file a civil lawsuit against the hospital or psychiatric facility where your child was sexually abused.

We Represent Victims of Sexual Abuse That Occurred in Hospitals and Mental Health Care Facilities

If you or someone you know was the victim of sexual abuse or molestation in a hospital or mental health care facility, the sexual abuse attorneys at Estey & Bomberger may be able to help. To learn whether you can file a civil lawsuit for money damages against the facility where the abuse took place, contact us online or call (800) 925-0723.