Caregivers are often victims of sexual harassment

Thursday, Dec 07, 2017
Photo: Pixabay

LOS ANGELES - Recent accusations of sexual harassment have been aimed at powerful male perpetrators, many of whom are in the entertainment industry and politics.

But there are other perpetrators among the elderly and frail who may need help with bathing or walking and have diminished physical and mental capacities.

The alleged victims of their sexual transgressions are the people whose job is to take care of them, according to a report by UK's The Guardian.

Myrla Baldonado, 64, a Filipino caregiver, said a former client in Illinois who had multiple sclerosis asked Baldonado to masturbate her because she was no longer intimate with her husband.

"I felt violated," the Guardian quotes Baldonado.

Another Filipino caregiver who declined to give his name said a 74-year-old client, a large man, woke him up in his Los Angeles senior care home and asked if they could sleep together. The client was naked.

Caregivers are vulnerable to abuse because their jobs and wages are dependent on elderly clients, who may also be poor themselves. Caregivers fear being blacklisted or fired because of client complaints. Labor union officials cited cases where clients demanded sexual favours in exchange for signing off on the caregivers' pay.

A 2012 national study of domestic work in the United States showed some 36 per cent of live-in domestic workers reported verbal, sexual or racist harassment in the previous year.

Still, some caregivers are sympathetic to clients who commit misconduct because of mental infirmity or desperation.

Baldonado hesitated to report her client's masturbation request because she did not want the woman to lose Medicaid support.

Other domestic workers, such as nannies and housekeepers, also hesitated to report abuses, according to a domestic workers' advocate, for fear of retaliation, especially if they are undocumented immigrants.