Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse

Data shows 29% of all complaints reported to long-term care Ombudsmen were complaints of physical abuse. 

Physical abuse is any deliberate act, behavior or force that could cause harm, injury or trauma. There are many types of physical abuse, with varying signs based on differing circumstances.

As people age and their bodies change, they become more vulnerable to serious injuries from physical abuse. Physical abuse is hard to identify, because it’s often carried out without the presence of a witness by someone who has established a trusted relationship with an individual, such as a family member, significant other, or caregiver.

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse is defined as any illegal act of violence intended to harm an individual. Physical abuse may be blunt force used against someone, or it may be the result of overmedication. Regardless of the kind of physical abuse, it is an extremely painful crime that causes elderly individuals become extremely fearful of their abusers.

Examples of physical abuse are striking, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. In addition, inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind.

What are the signs of physical abuse?

While the evidence of physical abuse may be clear, there are types of physical abuse remain hidden. Physical abuse can be mild to severe with bruises or cuts that are visible and easy to identify. In other cases, wounds may heal before incidents of abuse are discovered.

When making an assessment about the presence of physical abuse, it’s important to look out for other factors. Controlling behavior, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and other acts of violence may go hand in hand with physical abuse.

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks
  • Bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures
  • Open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing
  • Sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleeding
  • Broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, and signs of being restrained
  • Laboratory findings of medication overdose or underutilization of prescribed drugs
  • An elder’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated
  • An elder’s sudden change in behavior
  • The caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone


What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person. Sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent, such as an individual who mat suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia or other disorders.

Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing. In a sexually abusive situation, an abuser may attempt to control their victims to a keep a report from being filed.

What are the signs of sexual abuse?

In nursing homes, it may be difficult for seniors who experience sexual abuse to come forward and report the abuse. Nursing home residents depend on their caregivers, making it extremely difficult to stand up to their abusers.

Though sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse, it can cause serious psychological impacts. Depending on the severity and time period of abuse, a sexual assault can be extremely traumatizing alter a person’s life forever.

There are many clear signs that can indicate sexual abuse, such as:

  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • An elder’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped

If you or a loved one suspect physical or sexual abuse, please contact our attorneys immediately.

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