Alarming statistics recently released show that while abuse of developmentally disabled persons in care facilities is being perpetrated in California, little is being done to prevent it or punish the offenders. Starting in the year 2008 through the end of 2012, 36 cases of sexual abuse and molestation have been reported at the five state-run California developmental centers. Of those 36 reported cases, only one has led to an arrest.
One of the most disturbing cases involved the sexual assault of a former Sonoma patient named Jennifer who suffered from bipolar disorder and severe mental retardation. On more than one occasion Jennifer’s mother identified bruises shaped like handprints covering Jennifer’s breasts as well as bite marks that had broken the skin. After Jennifer accused a staff member of molestation, the facility purportedly took extra precautions to prevent further injury by putting a special alarm system on the door to her room. Unfortunately this precaution was unavailing because Jennifer became pregnant while she was a patient at Sonoma Developmental Center. Since the facility failed to do a rape kit on Jennifer, any evidence that may have lead to the arrest of the molester was lost and the primary suspect, a janitor at the facility, has since fled the country. To learn more about Jennifer’s story in a short documentary featuring narration by Jennifer’s mother, you can visit http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/video-jennifers-room-18695.
The developmentally disabled and dependent adult victims of abuse, along with elder abuse victims, are often incapable of protecting themselves due to their physical or mental disabilities. These victims are also often unable to report the abuse themselves, which is why it is so important for the loved ones of these patients to take action immediately if they suspect abuse. Our firm, Berman & Riedel, LLP, is experienced in handling claims involving the abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled adults who reside in care facilities. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the care that a loved one is receiving in care facility, please feel free to call upon us at (858) 350-8855. If you would like to learn more on your own for the time being, be sure to visit our resource center which offers a wide range of legal information about different types of abuse, care facilities and the rights you and your loved one are entitled to in the State of California.