Learning that your elderly mother has suffered sexual assault is unimaginable. But learning that her nursing home blames her is horrifying. But that is where Rosa Woodard’s family members find themselves after trying to hold her nursing home accountable for failing to keep her safe.
“When Ms. Woodard’s family moved their 65-year-old mother suffering from dementia into the Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center, they never expected to confront issues of sexual assault and victim shaming. Sadly, because of substandard medical care and shameful lawyering, they must.” said Charles Brown, a Houston medical malpractice lawyer with Brown, Christie & Green.
Sexual Assault Case Background
In December 2017, Ms. Rosa Woodard moved into Willowbrook. While only 65 years old, she was unable to care for herself because of dementia and stage IV Parkinson’s Disease. The decision was hard for her family, but they trusted Willowbrook to provide the care the family could not.
The facility failed to live up to that trust. On March 22, 2018, at approximately 5:50 p.m., a certified nursing assistant (CNA) noticed that Ms. Woodard’s call light was on and her door was closed. The CNA responded to her room and walked into a shocking sight. A male resident was standing over Ms. Woodard’s bed. His pants were down. Ms. Woodard’s pants and her briefs had been removed and discarded. His penis was in her mouth. And he was forcefully moving her head back and forth.
The CNA ran for help, returning with two nurses, one of whom was the facility’s Director of Nursing (DON). When they arrived, they found Ms. Woodard curled in the protective fetal position, her arms folded tightly against her chest. She would not speak and kept her eyes shut tightly. Her sheets, her pillowcase, and even her body were marred by yellow staining. The normally verbal resident remained silent even after being moved to the nurse’s station, propped up in a wheelchair.
Nursing Home Leadership Delays Investigation
But allowing Ms. Woodard to be raped was not the end of Willowbrook’s errors. The facility should have preserved evidence, notified the family, sought medical attention for Ms. Woodard, and called the police. They did none of these.
Rather than working to collect evidence, the assistant director of nursing told a staff member to clean Ms. Woodard up. Although the CNA refused to carry out the ADON’s order, recognizing that a crime had been committed, an investigation later showed that important evidence had not been preserved.
Then, rather than following protocol and immediately contacting Ms. Woodard’s daughter, they delayed. Why? They knew that Ms. Woodard’s daughter was active and involved with her mother’s care and would demand accountability. They knew this situation would be “a big problem.”
Even when the facility notified her, they withheld critical information. They told her only that an incident had taken place and that a male resident was found in Ms. Woodard’s room with his penis out. Details about the assault and how it had impacted her mother’s behavior were withheld. Thankfully, the cover up was exposed. An employee from another facility contacted Ms. Woodard’s daughter, letting her know the truth and the extent of the sexual assault.
The facility also delayed in obtaining medical care for Ms. Woodard. After the assault, Ms. Woodard remained in her chair at the nurse’s station for three hours before an ambulance took Ms. Woodard to the hospital. And that happened only after a demand from Ms. Woodard’s daughter once she was fully informed.
What about the police? The facility failed to notify the police that a crime had occurred. Who did the administrator call instead of the police? Her corporate office, of course. It was the ER staff who collected important evidence and made the authorities aware of Ms. Woodard’s rape.
Nursing Home Blames Victim Despite Admitting She was Unable to Consent
In response to the incident, Ms. Woodard’s heirs filed a lawsuit against Willowbrook SNF Management, LLC, and Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center.
“The law acknowledges that nursing home residents have the right to live free of sexual abuse. Ms. Woodard’s family brought suit to hold Willowbrook accountable for violating Ms. Woodard’s rights.” said the family’s nursing home abuse attorney Charles Brown. “But it was the facility’s response to the claim that underscores the corporation’s refusal to accept responsibility for what happened. They have actually blamed her for another resident aggressively forcing her to engage in oral sex.”
In court filings, Willowbrook contends that Ms. Woodard herself was responsible for the sexual assault perpetrated against her. In it the corporate defendants claim “Plaintiffs’ [sic] injuries and damages, if any, were the result of Rosa D. Woodard’s own acts or omissions.”
Rather than take responsibility, they claim that Ms. Woodard was responsible for the sexual assault. But worse, they know that it is not true.
Facility Knows Ms. Woodard is Not to Blame
In the course of a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) investigation, an investigator found a typed document bearing the administrator’s name in which the Administrator admitted:
“Due to her multiple diagnoses, this resident does not have the capacity to consent to sexual activity.”
The police investigation agreed. In response to the Administrator claiming that the sexual assault was consensual, the detective who attempted to interview Ms. Woodard shortly after the incident occurred stated that she had “a cognition of zero” and questioned how Ms. Woodard could give consent when she cannot talk?
A Tragic Event, A Shameful Response
The DHHS investigation found multiple failures by the facility and on May 3, 2019, Ms. Woodard’s assailant will face criminal charges. Yet, still, her family is battling a nightmarish situation as their loved one is blamed for the shameful crimes committed against her.
“I placed my mother in Willowbrook believing that she would get the utmost care, attention, and safety. Instead, my mother was raped. And then the facility lied to me about it and blamed her for what happened. They will not get away with this. I will not rest until the facility is held accountable.”
Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center should be ashamed for trying to protect itself by blaming an innocent resident. The corporate office, the administrator, and staff members should be embarrassed to be a part of continued neglect and selfishness. Their behavior and deceit show that their primary concern is protecting themselves – not the residents that they claim to honor and value.