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Sexual Abuse and Dementia in Older People

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Volume: 54 Issue: 7 Dated: 2006 Pages: 1154-1155
Date Published
2 pages

Findings are presented and conclusions drawn from a study of 284 cases of suspected elder sexual abuse that were referred for disposition to law enforcement for investigation, to adult protective services for consultation, to a forensic nurse examiner for a rape examination, or to a prosecutor's office for charges.


Of these 284 cases, 60 percent of the suspected victims were diagnosed with some form of dementia. Data analysis indicated that older people with dementia were abused more often than those without such a diagnosis. Suspected perpetrators were most often persons known to the elderly victims (family member, caregiver, or another nursing home resident). Elderly persons with dementia presented behavior cues of distress rather than verbal disclosures of their victimization; and they were easily confused, verbally manipulated, and often beaten. Suspects in cases investigated for the sexual abuse of an elderly person with dementia had less chance of being arrested, indicted, or entering into plea bargaining. Based on these findings, the authors note the importance of behavioral signs of distress in older people who are cognitively impaired as being evidence of sexual abuse. The fact that the demented elderly victim is unable to provide a verbal account of the abusive events reduces the likelihood of a fair and impartial assessment and applications of the law by the current judicial system. 1 reference

Date Published: January 1, 2006