Investigator: Was brain-damaged woman raped at nursing home?

8:03 AM, Aug 26, 2011   |    comments
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OAKWOOD VILLAGE - Police are investigating whether a 29-year-old woman who has been on life-support since a car accident six years ago was sexually assaulted when she lived at the Grande Oaks nursing home.

Detectives became involved after the woman, who cannot communicate or move, was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, according to a police report.

They are awaiting results of a rape kit, as well as additional medical records.

The Cleveland-area Long Term Care Ombudsman, which investigates nursing home abuse, also is looking into the incident.   

Violet Townsend was admitted to Grande Oaks in 2006 after sustaining severe brain damage when her car slid off the interstate and slammed into a guard rail.

The impact sent the guard rail through the vehicle where it struck Townsend in her head, said her father, Michael Townsend.

"She can't talk. She's on life-support. She can't tell if anything happens to her or anybody does anything to her," said Michael Townsend.

The family became concerned when Violet Townsend's mother noticed that there was blood in the seat of her wheelchair in March. The parents sent Violet Townsend to Hillcrest Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with an STD.

Channel 3 News typically does not name victims of sexual assault, but her father agreed to identify Townsend because he said he wants to prevent it from happening to other women.

In a written statement, Grande Oaks said that it is cooperating with the police investigation.

"Grande Oaks investigated the incident immediately when it was brought to our attention, and determined that nothing improper had taken place at our facility," the statement said. "We determined that the issue arose prior to our relationship with the resident."  

A family attorney said he has not seen any medical records indicating that Violet Townsend had a sexually transmitted disease prior to the accident.  

Michael Townsend, who was never given the results of the Grande Oaks internal investigation, said he believes his daughter was sexually abused inside the facility.

"They're covering up something -- I know they are," he said. "There would be no reason for them not to tell me what happened to my daughter." 

The nursing home also noted that it notified the state Health Department, which conducted a separate investigation "that did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by our facility."  

A Health Department spokeswoman confirmed that its investigation determined that the facility followed the proper procedures to prevent and respond to the incident.

"It doesn't mean it didn't happen," said spokeswoman Tessie Pollock.    

Michael Townsend, who has since moved his daughter to a new facility, said there are other signs of abuse that he noticed in his daughter, who can feel pain and sometimes cries.

"She got to the point where you couldn't even touch her and she would just shake," Michael Townsend said. "I couldn't touch her. Nobody could touch her."    

WKYC-TV

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