When Caretakers Abuse Disabled Women

Too many handicapped women in Ohio, America and across the world are abused everyday in patient-caregiver relationships. The people we trust to look over these women with disabilities use all kinds of tactics to overpower and control these patients. One of the strategies is intimidation, where they may sometimes give the patient a stern look or stare, or make a threatening gesture towards her to strike fear into her. They may raise their hand at the frightened patient in a violent manner, or they may try to intimidate her by abusing her property or pets.

Many of these handicapped women are either victims of this kind of verbal and emotional abuse in their private residences, or from caregivers who are within group/nursing homes. This psychological abuse is applied when the patient makes requests and the caregiver may deny them wrongly, or they may simply ignore the patient altogether. Some of the worst caregivers will even go as far as punishing the patient for no apparent reason.

abuse

Image from National Elf Service.

Obviously, the abuser doesn’t want anyone to know what’s going on, so they’ll do all they can to isolate a disabled woman who they are privately abusing from her friends and family. All the while, they’ll constantly be attempting to justify the abuse to the patient herself, trying to make her feel like there’s nothing wrong with what’s going on. Many disabled women have grown to become very dependent on their personal caregivers, and when the abuser starts holding back services (like providing a wheelchair she needs to physically get around in, or stops giving her frequent meals or a much-needed form of medication), it makes the abused woman that much more hesitant to report what’s regularly happening to her.

There is also frequently seen economical abuse towards disabled women from their caregivers. In these instances, a caregiver will steal personal property, money, or other valuable items from the unsuspecting patient. Caregiver privilege is taken to the extreme against these women, who may be living with serious mental disabilities. They are frequently talked to (or yelled at) harshly, and made to feel like they’re not even adults when they are currently in the middle of an abusive situation.

The vulnerability of these disabled women increases more and more with every threat they are issued from their caregivers, especially when there is sexual abuse involved. According to the Office on Women’s Health, women who have disabilities have a much higher chance of being abused or sexually assaulted than women who don’t. Most of the time, they are hurt by someone that they know, a close family member, or maybe a friend or partner that they’ve been around for a while. The patient may feel like she is trapped with no way out, being that she may trust the person very much, or the because of the fact that the caregiver may have a good reputation. She may feel that no one would ever believe her allegations of abuse, even if she told them.

The American Psychological Association says that there is a 40% greater chance of a woman with disabilities having to deal with domestic violence and other similar forms of abuse in her lifetime than women who are not mentally or physically handicapped. These horrible crimes happen way too many times in the Buckeye State, the United States, and across the world.

Disabled Women Abused Recently in Ohio

Ohio has had it’s share of cases of abuse towards disabled women. Here are a few of them.

  • In late February of 2017, one former employee of the Heinzerling Foundation was sentenced to sixteen years for sexually abusing a disabled resident who was physically immobile and almost completely dependent upon her caretakers. The multiple incidents occurred between March of 2014 and September of 2015. He got away with it for a while, but one time, when the offender, Harry Yruegas, was sexually assaulting the patient, another caregiver at the facility walked in on him in the act. The woman’s brother asked for the maximum sentence, and told reporters:

    “My sister is incapable of doing anything on her own, she needs 24-hour care. What’s been done here is inexcusable, highly inexcusable. I don’t believe this gentleman should be on the streets running free anytime soon.”

  • A different recent Ohio report was one of financial exploitation. This is when a thieving caregiver unlawfully takes items of value from their patient. In many cases (especially when the patient has mental disabilities) the thief feels unthreatened because the woman may not be able to speak up for herself. In early April 2017, the Warren Ohio police spotted a man sleeping inside of his car in front of a Rite Aid. They found out that the man, Kevin Flynn, was passed out from using heroin. The police talked to the woman who was accompanying him, Jenalyn Brenner, outside of the car. The two of them were posing as caregivers for a disabled elderly woman in Hubbard, Ohio. And, as police questioned Brenner more thoroughly, she finally told them that they’d stolen her pills, and had also recently pawned the disabled lady’s coin collection.
  • Another incident of financial exploitation was recently reported in Ohio on WLWT Channel 5 in late May of 2017. The report was about a former caretaker at Brookdale Finneytown Assisted Living facility in Cincinnati. Apryl Parks was well-loved by one of the much older residents there, who was 99. In fact, according to the woman’s daughter, she’d referred to Parks as her very favorite caregiver. According to the daughter, the incidents happened last December, when she began to discover several missing checks from her mom’s checkbook. She reported it to the police, then began to closely monitor the bank account online. After a few attempted transactions (including some for orders made to Amazon), Parks tried to deposit one of the bad checks into her own bank account, and that’s when she was caught. Brookdale Finneytown Assisted Living mentioned this in their statement:

    “We were notified of a potential theft in this community. We worked closely with the local police on an investigation and the evidence pointed to involvement by a former associate. She was not an associate at the time of the arrest…”

 

Disabled Women Abused Recently Across the U.S.

This type of abuse towards disabled women doesn’t only happen in Ohio but across the United States. Here are some recent cases.

  • Last September in Eagle Mountain, Utah, a group home worker named Karolyn Williams stumbled upon two disabled female residents having sex. Williams asked the women if she could join in and, over the next several months, she became more aggressive and began to force the women to have sex with her. Among the many cases nationwide where disabled female victims will not speak up for themselves, this was not one of them. They told authorities that the sex was not consensual, even though Williams initially claimed that it was. She eventually did admit to touching the disabled ladies in an inappropriate way, and was charged with ten first degree felonies apiece for both object rape and forcible sodomy, along with ten additional second-degree felonies for forcible sexual abuse.
  • Another story from Utah involved a 64-year-old abuser from Provo named Fatai Onevai and a disabled woman who was dependent upon her wheelchair for mobility. He was arrested in early February for apparently stealing the woman’s phone along with snatching all of the food out of her refrigerator, knowing that she wasn’t able to go back and forth to the grocery store easily on her own. He was charged with aggravated abuse against a disabled adult.

Image from Irish Mirror.

  • In late January of 2017 there was an ABC News Houston report about a home caretaker who repeatedly hit a 94-year-old patient over the head (the multiple strikes to the disabled lady were caught on camera). Her son had become increasingly suspicious when he started seeing bruises on his mom. He wanted to know what was going on. So, in the general area of the house where his mother’s caregiving took place, he set up a hidden camera. What he caught was disturbing footage of the caregiver, Brenda Floyd, abusing his mother. The video footage showed Floyd continuously slapping the woman in the head as harsh physical punishment for giving the dog ‘people’ food. This had probably been going on for a long time unreported, but if her son hadn’t put up that camera the physical abuse would have likely continued to go on for a long time in the shadows.
  • Many disabled women become abused because they failed to find out if their caretaker was really qualified. This was the case in one Fort Lauderdale, FL incident, according to a February 2017 report from the Sun Sentinel. This lady was not only disabled but also an alcoholic, which is what her fake caregiver, Wayne Richards, used to keep her out of the way. He continuously gave the woman large amounts of vodka, so that she’d be bedridden and he could keep allowing prostitutes and drug dealers into the home. Richards had been posing as a caregiver for the 60-year-old woman since last December and, by the time a complete examination of her body was conducted, she had, according to reports:

    “…suffered a brain hemorrhage, a cut over her right eye, three fractured ribs, a fractured index finger, and multiple bruises to her face and arms…”

  • Another Florida incident involving a disabled woman was when she was abused by a caregiver at NeuroRestorative, a facility that is set up specifically to help adults with developmental disabilities. One of the workers, Erica Reid, was caught on video aggressively pushing a patient with a brain injury from behind into her room and onto the floor. After the evidence was viewed on tape, she was immediately fired from the facility.
  • There was also a brutal assault on a 19-year-old mentally disabled woman reported in early April of 2017. In a Hamden, CT group home, two caregivers there by the names of Victoria Dancy and Melissa Smith were caught on camera repeatedly beating their victim with mop handles and brooms. The video also showed them strangling the helpless girl while she laid on the floor. They were charged with strangulation, reckless endangerment, cruelty to persons, and assault of a disabled person.
  • According to the Idaho Legislature, an adult is considered vulnerable if they are of legal age and have a high level of physical or mental disability that prevents them from defending themselves against abuse, exploitation or neglect. In late April of 2017, The Idaho Statesman reported that a 24-year-old man from Meridian named Kevin Setter had met a 27-year-old mentally disabled woman from Twin Falls at church who he later sexually assaulted. The womans’ mental capacity didn’t exceed that of a six-year-old, and she later reported to a mental health worker that while he was taking her back and forth to church they’d stopped at his house for sex on at least two occasions.
  • The Executive Director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) Alexandra Snyder examined a case in Annandale, VA that involved a disabled woman with a brain injury who was bound to her wheelchair. Anastasia Adams was denied treatment for the development of a blood clot at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, but her family refused to relocate her. So, without telling the family anything, the hospital secretly moved her to a nearby nursing home where Anastasia suffered even more injuries (including a broken hip) in just a couple of weeks. Executive Director Snyder had this to say to Lifesite News:

    “Tragically, we are seeing an exponential increase in cases where patients are intentionally starved to death because someone has determined that their lives no longer have value…Anastasia was targeted for death simply because she is disabled. But she can speak, feel pain, and fully understands what is happening to her. She is being tortured to death by healthcare professionals who have it in their capacity to provide care and treatment.”

  • From January 2016 until April 2017, there were multiple occasions when a man from Waco, TX named Miguel Ibarra sexually assaulted a mentally disabled woman with autism. The autistic woman eventually felt like she needed to tell someone, and that person ended up being her mother. The woman brought her daughter down to the police station there in Waco to report the incidents. According to the arrest affidavit, the woman was “substantially unable to consent to sex acts”.

 

Abuse of Disabled Women is a Worldwide Problem

The cases above were ones that occurred only in the United States. But, sadly, the frequent abuse of disabled women is not just an issue in this country, but also in many places across the world.

  • Tricia Malowney is the Chairman for Women with Disabilities, Victoria (WDV). In one interview on their WDV YouTube Channel, she talks about these horrible crimes:

    “Violence against women with disabilities comes in a number of forms, as well as the other things that affect other women… there are also those components of violence that apply only to women with disabilities. They may be being overmedicated or under medicated, or their abuser made reduce the patient’s ability to be mobile. It’s the psychological abuse of telling women they are no good,  just because they have a disability…if it’s the carer, for example, who is the abuser or the perpetrator of violence against you, because our society sees them as martyrs and heroes for being good enough to take care of a woman with a disability, they are often not believed…”

wheelchair

Image from the Domestic Violence Resource Center, Victoria.

 

  • One very disturbing case of abuse that was reported in The Guardian was committed by a couple located in North Ireland. For an entire eight years, they imprisoned a disabled woman and sexually abused her over and over again. They locked her in a room that had hardly any light, no carpet, and access to only one toilet which was overflowing with human waste by the time the authorities found her. The abusers, Keith and Caroline Baker, eventually finally admitted to the horrific crimes of repeated rape and assault over all those years.
  • A two-home care facility located in England called The Atlas Project was recently exposed for repeated cruelty to the residents there. According to reports from the UK Daily Mail, the vulnerable women (and some men) were frequently locked inside of what were referred to as punishment rooms. The rooms were sometimes ice cold inside, and the residents were forced to stay in them overnight. Thirteen people were convicted of this systematic abuse against the victims. One of the residents described the overall attitude of the Director of Atlas, Jolyon Marshall:

    “He was what I would call the nastiest person you could ever come across. If you didn’t do what he wanted, you got put in the quiet room. He was just vindictive.”

 

Contact Us at Slater & Zurz

If you are a disabled woman who feels you’ve been abused by your at-home caregiver, or by members of the staff at a group home or nursing home, don’t hesitate to contact us at Slater & Zurz. Don’t be afraid to speak up about the problem, because these forms of abuse against women with disabilities only get worse over time. If you are a family member or friend who is suspecting that one of your disabled loved ones is possibly being abused by her caregiver, our experienced attorneys can help you figure out what signs to look for. Contact us today for free consultation.

 

Sources

  1. Abuse of Women with Disabilities. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/women-disabilities.aspx
  2. Violence Against Women with Disabilities. Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/types-of-violence/violence-against-women-with-disabilities.htm

Futty, J. 24 Feb 2017. Former caregiver sentenced to nearly 16 years for rape of disabled woman. Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170224/former-caregiver-sentenced-to-nearly-16-years-for-rape-of-disabled-woman

Gauntner, M. 10 April 2017. Couple accused of stealing drugs, coin collection while ‘helping’ disabled Hubbard woman. WFMJ. Retrieved from http://www.wfmj.com/story/35075587/couple-accused-of-stealing-drugs-coin-collection-while-helping-disabled-hubbard-woman

Griffin, D. 25 May 2017. Former caretaker accused of stealing from 99-year-old woman. WLWT Channel 5. Retrieved from http://www.wlwt.com/article/former-caretaker-accused-of-stealing-from-99-year-old-woman/9934932

Hanson, K. 10 Nov 2016. Eagle Mountain woman arrested on reports of sexually abusing disabled women. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/eagle-mountain-woman-arrested-on-reports-of-sexually-abusing-disabled/article_d8a02ef5-6037-5354-bfa6-bf7ebb651b57.html

24 Jan 2017. Video shows caregiver hitting 94-year-old woman on head multiple times. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abc7.com/news/video-shows-caregiver-hitting-94-year-old-woman-on-head/1719268/

Clary, M. 10 Feb 2017. Phony caretaker battered Lauderdale woman, plied her with vodka to keep her bedridden, police allege. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-lauderdale-disabled-abuse-20170202-story.html

Habson, K. 13 Feb 2017. Provo man reportedly abused wheelchair-bound woman. Daily Herald. Retrieved from http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/provo-man-reportedly-abused-wheelchair-bound-woman/article_d687d057-0a04-5cb4-99c8-508d56157e59.html

Glatz, J. 8 April 2017. Two group home workers arrested, accused of assaulting a disabled patient. Fox 61, CT. Retrieved from http://fox61.com/2017/04/08/two-group-home-workers-arrested-accused-of-assaulting-a-disabled-patient/

Rodine, K. 19 April 2017. Meridian man allegedly abused woman with a mental age of about 6. Idaho Statesman. Retrieved from http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/crime/article145526194.

  1. Idaho Statutes. Retrieved from

https://legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/idstat/Title18/T18CH15/SECT18-1505/

Bourne, L. 20 April 2017. Disabled woman denied food, water, and healthcare in a nursing home. Lifesite News. Retrieved from https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-way-this-woman-is-being-treated-by-her-nursing-home-shows-how-much-our

Winer, A. 28 April 2017. Medical staff member charged with abusing a disabled adult. WFTS Tampa Bay. Retrieved from http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/medical-staff-member-charged-with-abusing-a-disabled-adult

Hoppa, K. 15 May 2017. Man arrested, accused of sexually abusing mentally disabled woman. Waco Tribune Herald. Retrieved from http://www.wacotrib.com/news/police/man-arrested-accused-of-sexually-abusing-mentally-disabled-woman/article_d0b4f6a7-e06b-585f-991b-c9af6801787e.html

  1. Violence Against Women with Disabilities. WDV Channel. Retrieved from

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EovgP4YXjL8

Doherty, M. 8 Aug 2016. Former carer says she was directed to tie up disabled woman. The Canberra Times. Retrieved from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/former-carer-says-she-was-directed-to-tie-up-disabled-woman-20160801-gqi51b.html

McDonald, H. 5 April 2017. Couple jailed for imprisoning and sexually abusing disabled woman. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/04/couple-jailed-holding-disabled-woman-home-sex-slave-northern-ireland

Bentley, P. 7 June 2017. Cruel carer was ‘the nastiest man in the world. The Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4582564/13-staff-abused-vulnerable-adults.html

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