The Need For Nursing Homes To Take Responsibility For Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can occur any time, any place, and by seemingly trusted individuals. One particularly disturbing area where this abuse occurs is within the healthcare setting. “Nursing home patients are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse,” explains nursing home attorney Jeffrey Downey.

A recent example is the case of Dr. Robert Hadden, former Columbia University gynecologist. Hadden was accused of sexually abusing numerous patients over decades. Victims struggled to be believed, highlighting a troubling pattern within medical settings.

Survivors’ Stories

In an NBC News exposé, five of Dr. Hadden’s former patients bravely shared their harrowing experiences of abuse. They describe Hadden’s manipulative tactics, including extended, unnecessary examinations, and inappropriate inquiries about their sex lives. Their voices reveal a disturbing pattern of abuse of power and trust – a phenomenon that, sadly, is not confined to this specific case.

Response and Aftermath

Despite numerous women raising concerns, Columbia University only reached a settlement with over 200 of Hadden’s patients in 2021. However, legal settlements don’t erase the lasting trauma survivors endure.

Many victims described struggling with anxiety, depression, and trust issues following the abuse. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for survivors of sexual violence.

Prevalence of Sexual Assault Cases

1 in 10 residents in nursing homes are estimated to experience sexual abuse. The number is likely higher due to underreporting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 0.7% of nursing home staff admitting to sexual abuse, while only 1.9% of residents report it

Common Forms of Abuse

Common forms of abuse could include:

  • Rape of improper sexual acts
  • Unwanted touching of private areas
  • Sexual harassment (inappropriate comments, gestures)
  • Exposing residents to sexual acts

Factors Contributing to Vulnerability

  • Physical or cognitive impairments – Residents with dementia or limited mobility may be unable to resist or report abuse.
  • Isolation from family – Limited family contact can make residents less likely to disclose abuse.
  • Fear of retaliation – Residents may fear being neglected or receiving worse care if they report abuse.

Challenges in Reporting

Many victims may feel ashamed and embarrassed to talk about sexual abuse. Also, residents with dementia may not be able to clearly communicate what happened. Staff members may not take resident complaints seriously.

Future Onlook – the Need to Hold Violators Accountable

While stories like Dr. Hadden’s are deeply distressing, they serve an important purpose. Survivors speaking out can encourage others to come forward. One survivor expressed hope that by sharing her experience, it would inspire other victims to seek justice. This echoes a key principle in combating all forms of sexual violence – breaking the silence is a crucial step towards healing and preventing future abuse. Victims need to take steps by contacting a law firm that handles sexual abuse cases.

Contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey

Jeffrey Downey has over 35 years of litigation experience handling malpractice and other forms of litigation. He tried the landmark case of Huffman vs. Beverly California Corporation, 42 Va. Cir. 205 (Rockingham County, VA) that resulted in a 5 million dollar verdict in Virginia. (

“Prosecuting elder abuse cases can be difficult in situations where the victim is demented or suffering from a poor memory. If the dementia is severe, the victim may not be able to testify” explains Downey. That’s why it’s critically important to contact counsel early in the process, so your attorney can preserve important evidence and evaluate whether you should request a state investigation.

When sexual abuse does occur in the health care setting, the victims are often told they have misconstrued the interaction. That is exactly what happened in the reported sexual abuse case involving this New York Gynecologist and it also explains why he had so many victims. It also seemed that the state prosecutor did not take the complaints as seriously as the feds, explains malpractice attorney Jeffrey J. Downey.

Patients pursuing sexual abuse cases need to understand that it can be a difficult process that typically begins with a successful criminal prosecution. If you believe you have been a victim of sexual assault or misconduct, your first step should be to contact police, Downey says.
In the health care setting you can also file a complaint with the licensing agency overseeing that healthcare provider.

Dr. Robert Hadden’s case shines a harsh light on the insidiousness of sexual abuse within the medical profession. Victims are often silenced or their experiences minimized, This case highlights the importance of believing survivors and taking allegations of sexual abuse seriously. Institutions must be held accountable for creating environments where abuse can fester. For those who have experienced sexual assault or misconduct, it’s important to remember you are not alone. Help is available, and your voice matters.

Call today for a free consultation.

We handle cases in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey
8300 Greensboro Drive, Suite 500
Mclean, VA 22102
Phone: 703-564-7318
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