Lawsuit claims disabled woman was raped, impregnated at Florida adult care facility
The family of a nonverbal, immobile developmentally disabled woman is suing a care facility after the woman was allegedly raped and impregnated. Pensacola News Journal
PENSACOLA, Fla. – The family of a developmentally disabled woman is suing a Florida adult care facility after the nonverbal, immobile woman was allegedly raped and impregnated early last year.
The 23-year-old woman suffers from "profound mental retardation" and has several developmental and intellectual disabilities to the point where she can't move her hands or fingers and has to be fed through a tube, according to a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Escambia County.
She was being cared for at Pensacola Cluster, a 24-bed intermediate care facility for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The lawsuit notes that due to the woman's multiple disabilities, she "was and is totally and completely dependent upon and at the mercy of National Mentor staff." National Mentor is the company that operates Florida Mentor which, in turn, operates Pensacola Cluster.
A person who answered the phone at Pensacola Cluster on Wednesday afternoon said that the organization had no comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that in January 2018, the woman was attending Westgate School on weekdays, a school for children and young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Westgate employees observed behavioral changes in the woman and noticed bruising on her hip when changing her diaper, according to the complaint.
Westgate staff alerted the woman's caregivers at Pensacola Cluster several times throughout the month of January, but the caregivers declined to seek medical treatment for the woman, investigate the cause of the injuries or notify the Florida Adult Abuse Hotline, according to the complaint.
According to a separate Agency for Health Care Administration report that was not part of the initial complaint, the Westgate staffers alerted the Department of Children and Families to the suspected abuse.
In February, a doctor at the Pensacola Cluster facility ordered an X-ray of the woman's hip and determined it was broken, according to the lawsuit. The next day, she was transported to Baptist Hospital for hip surgery. During a routine pre-surgical pregnancy screening, doctors learned the woman was pregnant.
The AHCA investigation noted she was between two to three weeks pregnant at that point.
A sexual assault examination was performed the same day, and the exam "revealed significant bruising on her outer hip, left inner thigh, and left calf," as well as lacerations and bruising on her vagina and hymenal ring, the complaint stated. The woman later miscarried.
The complaint alleges that "due to her developmental disabilities, Plaintiff is unable to knowingly and voluntarily give consent to sexual intercourse and she has been declared legally incompetent."
Her lawyers are seeking damages for the medical costs associated with her assault and pregnancy, as well as for severe emotional distress, pain and suffering. The lawsuit does not specify a particular dollar amount that the family is seeking.
Jim Green, an attorney with the Clark Partington law firm in Pensacola who is representing the victim's mother, said in a statement that the family is seeking justice for the woman.
"(The victim's) mother is outraged and devastated by what happened to (her)," Green said in an email to the News Journal. "What she wants is to protect (her daughter) from abuse and for (her daughter) to be safe."
Maj. Andrew Hobbs with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office confirmed law enforcement investigated the incident, but said no perpetrator had been identified and the case had been closed.
"We exhausted all leads, we have no suspects, and the case will be placed inactive," he said. "However, if we get any more leads, the case can always be reopened."
Hobbs said he couldn't comment further on the investigation, including on whether DNA samples had been obtained and been matched with people who might have come into contact with the victim.
According to the AHCA report, officials investigated the incident and cited several "deficiencies" with the way Pensacola Cluster responded to the situation. The program manager at the facility was informed several times of the victim's bruising and behavioral changes prior to the discovery of the assault and broken hip, but said she didn't call the abuse hotline because she thought the wheelchair caused the bruises, the report states.
The program manager also said she didn't believe the victim had been raped, the AHCA report said.
When the sexual assault was discovered, the victim was immediately transferred to a different care facility.
A woman who was in an incapacitated state reportedly became pregnant and gave birth while she was a patient at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. USA TODAY
The local case comes on the heels of another case in Phoenix involving an incapacitated woman who was impregnated while in an adult care facility.
The woman became pregnant while she was a patient at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. She gave birth to a baby boy on Dec. 29.
Arizona officials are investigating the case, and Hacienda HealthCare's CEO resigned last week in the wake of the reports.