Nursing homes are often run by Catholic or Protestant religious orders, and a new documentary looks at how these churches and institutions treat women who are sexually abused there.
The documentary, titled “Nuns in Crisis,” is part of a national campaign to highlight the lack of care at the residential facilities that houses women who have experienced sexual abuse.
The film follows three women who were abused in nursing homes in rural Nebraska, and their attempts to seek help at a local Catholic or evangelical hospital, where they say they were repeatedly molested and raped by staff.
In a report to Congress, a group of nuns called on the Catholic and evangelical churches to change their ways and commit to helping women.
The nuns also asked for greater accountability from nursing homes and religious institutions that have sexual abuse crisis centers, as well as more transparency in the reporting of sexual abuse and prevention.
“Nurses are our family, and we must be ready to help them in their time of need,” said Sarah O’Connor, a nursing home administrator and president of Sisters in Crisis.
“The crisis center in our community is a place where we can come together to seek support and to share the realities of sexual assault, to offer resources, and to find healing.
But our work cannot be solely focused on the crisis center.”
The documentary was produced by Sister Rosemary MacNamara, an administrator with the Sisters in the House of Mercy in New York City, and is part in a national effort to highlight women who say they have been sexually abused by a Catholic or Baptist church or religious institution.
“Nursing homes are a safe space for women,” said MacNara.
“And they’re a place for them to share their experiences, and they can come out and get help if they want to.”
The women in the documentary speak openly about the abuse and sexual assaults they suffered at nursing homes, and how they tried to help but were told they had no place to go.
“There was a lot of intimidation and harassment,” said one woman who said she was sexually assaulted at a nursing facility in Fargo, North Dakota.
“If I ever went there again, I wouldn’t come out because I wouldn’ dare to.
It was a place that was just too dark and too intimidating for me.”
“I’m not a monster,” she said, adding, “I want to help people.”
This woman was sexually abused in a nursing homes nursing home in Fargo.
She said she feared for her safety because she was afraid to report the abuse because she didn’t want to be judged as a liar.
She did eventually come out to her family and was eventually able to get help at the crisis centers in her town.
“I think I should have come out before it happened,” she told the filmmakers.
“Because I didn’t feel like I had any choice.”
This nursing home resident was sexually molested at a crisis center, and was able to share her story with the film crew.
She now works with a crisis counselor.
The other woman said she has received death threats.
“It’s like I have a new fear every time I look at somebody’s face,” she explained.
It’s scary to know that I’m being targeted.”
“We are going to have to do what we can to educate these people and to do everything we can,” said O’Donnell.
“So I can’t just say, ‘Oh well, they’re all just so nice.’
It’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to do my best to do the right thing.'”
The documentary also looks at the religious institutions, including the Catholic or Pentecostal churches, that have the most sexual abuse incidents, and why the numbers of sexual assaults have remained relatively steady over time.
“These are institutions that are held in such high esteem,” said Rosemary McGowan, director of Catholic Voices for Healing, a Catholic advocacy organization in New Jersey.
“They’re the only faith in America that has an epidemic of sexual violence.
They have the highest rate of sexual molestation of any faith.”
“It is a culture of sexual oppression and sexual violence,” said McGowan.
“When you look at this list of institutions, it’s a culture that has the highest rates of sexual aggression of any religious faith.”
According to the Catholic Church, sexual abuse is the most common crime against children in the United States, accounting for nearly 2,700 reports of sexual misconduct in 2016.
But it’s also been linked to other serious and widespread issues, including poverty, sexual assault and child abuse.
In 2017, a report from the Pew Research Center found that while the Catholic church was the largest perpetrator of sexual harassment in the U.S., it was not the most powerful, with the evangelical and Baptist churches as the top offenders.
It also found that only 6 percent of the sexual abuse cases involved the Catholic churches, and only 3 percent involved the Protestant denominations.
The majority of sexual abuses were committed by members of the evangelical church