Leah White – Analysis of Sexual Abuse of Elders in Nursing Homes

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Faculty mentor: Coco James

Artist’s Statement: The sexual abuse of elders in nursing homes is vastly under researched, prevented, and advocated for due to diminutive staff training, societal suppression, sexual ageism, and risk of invalid claims from elders with mental illness. Three antique dolls named Elder One, Two, and Three represent this issue: Elder One portrays insufficient staff training, Elder Two embodies societal suppression and sexual ageism, and Elder Three depicts elders with mental illness. Since most nursing staff receive less than five days of sexual abuse training and many reject considering their patients to be victims of sexual assault, Elder One is a child doll with a jubilant smile, painted to appear old. Without stains, cuts, or bruises, they appear innocent and content. Only when their trousers are removed does evidence of sexual abuse appear: the external genitalia are red. Elder One also emits a single black tear near their blackened mouth, signifying inner turmoil. White paint covers Elder Two’s skin, causing them to blend into the background. This camouflage effect represents society’s quiet insistence to limit talk about elderly sexual abuse. Moreover, they are purposefully devoid of physical attributes pertaining to gender or sex. Younger generations refuse to consider elders as sexual beings, consequently dismissing the possibility of any elders experiencing sexual abuse. While Elder Three displays the most obvious abusive wounds, their face conveys the true horror. Half of their face represents signs of a mental disorder like dementia: partly concealed lips show difficulty to communicate, a mostly blackened eye shows visual and spatial disabilities, and a missing earing represents memory loss. Shattered mirrors with typical dementia thoughts block their legs. Too often, elders who report sexual abuse are ignored because their mental disorder could manipulate their memory. This project aims to bring awareness to this crisis in an opprobrious, disturbing, and appalling manner.

View my art below!
Questions or comments? Contact me at: u1298979@utah.edu

Works of Art:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.formstack.com/uploads/4197533/103863675/784334048/103863675_elder_abuse_visual_art.pdf

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