Almost anyone may become a victim of sex abuse, but some people are much more vulnerable than others. One age group that commonly suffers from sex abuse is the elderly. 

The most vulnerable are those with a mental impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Social isolation also makes many in this demographic more vulnerable to abuse. 

Signs of sexual abuse among the elderly 

According to Psychology Today, sexual abuse is also known as sexual violence or assault, and it includes all types of unwanted or forced sexual acts. The acts of sex abuse toward older adults typically occur by someone they know, such as a family member, caretaker or other nursing home resident. Victims often do not report the abuse because they are fearful or do not have the mental capacity to do so. Some signs of sexual abuse include: 

  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping 
  • Sadness or depression 
  • New anxieties 
  • Avoidance of social situations or family gatherings 
  • Suicidal behaviors 

Reporting requirements for elder abuse  

Many of those who experience sexual abuse are in a care facility or have a private caretaker. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are certain groups of people who have an obligation to report abuse if they are aware of it. Some examples include employees of licensed care facilities; health care providers; law enforcement officers; medical examiners; and employees of social service, mental health or adult care agencies. 

When there is suspicion of sexual abuse, the person reporting it needs to notify a local law enforcement agency and the Department of Social and Health Services. The report is usually confidential.