Just weeks after a nurse in Arizona was arrested for raping an incapacitated patient at a long-term care facility, another health care worker in Virginia has been charged in a similar crime.
The sexual assaults have sparked alarm not only due to the horror of the offenses, but also because the only reason authorities caught the perpetrators was that the victims became pregnant — highlighting fears that an untold number of vulnerable patients are being abused in facilities across the U.S.
What are the details?
Police say behavior specialist Bernard Betts-King raped and impregnated a mentally incapacitated woman last year while working at the MVLE Community Center in Springfield, Virginia, KSAZ-TV reported.
As in the case of accused rapist and Phoenix LPN Nathan Sutherland, the suspect was tracked down after his alleged victim gave birth and the baby's DNA matched a court-ordered sample from her caretaker.
Betts-King is suspected of raping and impregnating a second victim under his watch, and investigators are awaiting the DNA analysis in that case.
Both men were allowed one-on-one access to female patients, and both men passed criminal background checks conducted by their employers. Were it not for the DNA links, both men would still likely be working in the facilities that employed them at the time of their arrests.
Last month, the family of a non-verbal, immobile Florida woman sued the health care facility where they say she was raped and impregnated as a resident in 2018. The suit claims a medical exam confirmed that the 23-year-old patient was pregnant and showed evidence of sexual assault, but no suspect has been identified. The victim reportedly suffered a miscarriage and police say no foreign DNA was discovered in the analysis.
Patient advocates fear there are far more instances of sexual assault occurring in health care facilities than are being reported.
A CNN investigation from 2017 found that the problem of nursing home patients being raped by caretakers is "more widespread than anyone would imagine" and said those responsible for protecting the vulnerable and investigating such crimes often do nothing about it. The writers admitted, "It's impossible to know just how many victims are out there."
What can be done to stop it?
According to U.S. News & World Report, 10 states allow video monitoring of patients in an effort to stop attacks, but some experts say camera footage does more to assist with convictions than to serve as a deterrent. The use of surveillance also brings up privacy issues for patients.
In a follow-up to its prior investigation, CNN reported that its story prompted the National Association of Health Care Assistants to pledge that the organization would "ramp up its education and training efforts" and "ensure that nursing assistants know how to spot potential abuse and report it promptly."
The article asserted that facilities cited for abuse receive "paltry penalties" from the government and noted that patient advocates believe laws limiting the legal liability of nursing homes prevent facilities from making patient safety more of a priority.