On July 26, police in Evansville, Indiana arrested a former nursing home staffer based on allegations that he sexually assaulted a patient in the dementia ward at Columbia Healthcare Center. 18-year-old Austin Cook was booked into Vanderburgh County Jail on a preliminary charge of rape. No formal charges were filed as of July 27. Following a probable cause hearing at Vanderburgh Circuit Court on July 27, his bond was set at $5,000.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Cook has been accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a 68-year-old man who has Alzheimer’s Disease and advanced dementia. Another staff member at Columbia Healthcare told police that on July 11, she walked into a semi-private room where the victim was staying and witnessed Cook kneeling over the victim with his pants pulled down and the patient’s finger in Cook’s genital area.
Cook was immediately suspended from Columbia Healthcare following the incident.
We’ve asked attorney contributor Jeff Gibson for his thoughts on the legal rights of nursing home abuse victims:
Sexual predators often target the most vulnerable among us. Sadly, our elderly loved ones, friends, and neighbors are often seen as easy targets for these predators. Many sexual predators seek positions where they’ll be working with vulnerable people like children, the elderly, and the disabled. When an innocent victim gets sexually abused or assaulted by someone who was trusted with their care, it’s important to prosecute the offender and to determine if anything could have been done to prevent the assault.
In some cases of nursing home abuse, the abuser’s employer bears partial responsibility for allowing the assault to occur. This is a legal concept known as negligence. If an investigation by a nursing home abuse lawyer determines that the nursing home’s negligence failed to stop a preventable assault, that nursing home could be held liable for damages if the victim’s family decides to file a lawsuit for sexual assault. An example of negligence would be failing to screen a new hire who turned out to be a sex offender.
Establishing liability in these cases will require a careful overview of the details of your case. Families who believe their loved one has been sexually abused in a nursing home should speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer about their legal options.