Woman Sues Nursing Home For Sexual Orientation Abuse

While staff at nursing homes may be responsible for many cases of abuse and neglect, there is another kind of abuse that is taking place in long-term care facilities. That is resident-on-resident abuse. A 2014 study at Cornell University found that 1 in 5 long-term care patients reported suffering from patient-on-patient abuse. Common forms of mistreatment included verbal abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Staff members at nursing home facilities are responsible for keeping their residents from harm, and that can include resident-to-resident abuse. The Washington Post reports on an Illinois woman who was recently given the go-ahead to sue a retirement home for failing to stop the abuse she endured.

After the death of her partner of 30 years, Martha Wetzel found herself removed from the home she shared with Judith Kahn by Kahn’s family members and estranged from the son she had adopted.

A social worker was able to find Wetzel a spot at Glen St. Andrew Living Facility. At first, she was happily making new friends. That changed, however, when other residents discovered that Wetzel was a lesbian.

After other residents learned this, Wetzel was spat on, called derogatory names like “fruit loop” and even physically attacked. Wetzel reported the incidents to administration, but nothing was done to stop the attacks.

This past Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss Wetzel’s lawsuit against the facility.

The three-judge panel said that landlords can be held responsible for discrimination if they fail to respond to harassment of tenants who belong to a protected class.

Wetzel suffered from 15 months of harassment at the hands of both residents and retirement home staff before reaching out to Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal rights organization for help. Lambda Legal represented Wetzel in her initial lawsuit and the appeal.