In Oregon, several high-profile cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes, hospitals, and even in ambulances have been reported in the last two years.
Is a culture of silence contributing to an increase in sexual assault in health care facilities?
Some professions, including medicine, are notorious for a “code of silence”. Patients are often harmed by medical errors far that are never reported. Nurses cover for dangerous doctors. Administrators go to great lengths to protect the staff from allegations of medical malpractice of negligence, citing fear of a lawsuit.
This culture of silence may contribute to the cover-up of sexual abuse occurring in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities.
Sexual abusers are likely to seek out places where they can be left alone with vulnerable or incapacitated people.
It is not unusual for a medical provider to be alone with a patient, even in busy hospital emergency rooms.
When patients report sexual assault or rape, they are often told it would be impossible for such a thing to have occurred with no witnesses. The patient can be coerced into believing that pain, stress, or medication caused them to imagine the assault. Or the patient may find that no one believes their word against an authority figure like a doctor.
Some hospitals will go to great lengths to guard their reputations – even if it means they fail to protect their patients.
Many medical facilities have large risk assessment departments that defend their staff, and help their insurance company avoid taking care of victims.
Violent crimes are allowed to continue when the abuser is protected and enabled by the hospital. Any hospital trying to protect their institutions against lawsuits by covering up sexual abuse claims are, in doing so, allowing more of these crimes to occur – and opening themselves up to more litigation.