Independent journalists Sophie Boutboul and Leila Miñano published an investigation on the website media part in which they delve into several cases such as that of Denise, a 93-year-old woman who was raped by a man who entered the nursing home where she lived. The management of the establishment wanted to hide the violation, but a precedent was opened to learn about more cases like this, which are more common than they seem and little commented on by public opinion.
“It is very difficult to detect these cases because women are silenced by their state of health, some cannot remember it. Furthermore, when the cases do reach justice, the victims cannot testify because they are very fragile.”
Some even lose their lives, as is the case of Denise “who left herself to die after the rape”, explains Sophie Boutboul, author of this work together with Leila Miñano, both members of the Youpress and Investigate Europe collectives.
“There are several cases in which the addresses of the residences tried to cover up the cases to protect their image,” added Boutboul. It’s what happened with Denise. According to the investigation, management tried to pass off the bruises from the rape as if it were a fall down the stairs.
However, the medical examination was final, the old woman had been sexually assaulted and her rapist was never identified.
Who was able to enter the establishment? “There is a lack of personnel. There is no one to control who enters and who leaves. This phenomenon is national. Today in France, both in private and public residences, there are not enough people to work. And that ends with the mistreatment of the elderly and sometimes, with rapes”, explains Leila Miñano, co-author of the investigation.
But in most cases, the aggressors are workers in the establishments. And the same reason for the lack of personnel explains why people who have been previously convicted of similar crimes find themselves working in those residences, when it is prohibited by law.
“The management has to verify the criminal records of the employees, it is an obligation. But they don’t because they don’t have enough employees. In addition, the Regional Health Agency, which has to control these residences, does not do so either. The work is not done at any point in the chain”, denounces Miñano.
It is estimated that there are dozens of victims, one hundred cases prosecuted, some with heavy sentences because the age and state of health of the victims was taken into account as an aggravating circumstance.
But the number could be much higher, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg. This is recognized by the French Government, which announced a program to protect the elderly, although there is no specific plan to prevent violations.
“Despite the multitude of letters received at the regional or national level, a true national plan or vademecum dedicated to denouncing and preventing sexual violence in nursing homes has never been put in place,” explains Boutboul. For his part, Miñano denounces the “lack of will of the Government” to improve the situation in nursing homes, both private and public.
“We are increasingly shocked by the cruelty with which the elderly are treated and the impunity for mistreatment. It has already been denounced, but the State does not force residences to employ more people, nor does it increase controls to issue licenses. They are considered second-class citizens”, concluded Miñano.