Monday, November 21, 2011

Nursing Home Abuse- Danae Chambers: Victimized Another Time

71 year old Chambers at Castleview Wychwood Towers

Danae Chambers became a victim of the mental illness Dementia around the early 1990's and it appears she has been victimized yet again. Not of another mental illness, but by a man who was trusted as a staff of her nursing home to care for her. 

71 year old Chambers was an incredible artist. She studied at Oxford, lived in France and displayed her art through oil paintings. As a resident of Castleview Wychwood Towers in Toronto (also ran by the City of Toronto) since 2006, Chambers depended on the staff to provide and protect her well-being. A male practical nurse, 46 year-old Leonid Kozlov is charged with sexual assault. 

Chambers in her earlier years

This is a prime example of not just violence against women but violence against marginalized women. What is of importance here is that not all women fit into the category of white, middle aged, middle class, able bodied living in a developed world. When a woman's identity intersects with multiple social divisions, the outcome of their victimization is of a different experience than of a white woman, an able bodied woman, a rich woman... the "universal" woman

It is evident here that an elderly woman suffering from a mental illness was abused based on her vulnerability by a man that carries more powers than those that come with his gender. He was able bodied, a professional (so to speak) with economic privileges, and he did not suffer from dementia. 

The Toronto Star investigated abuse in nursing homes and the numbers are likely to induce vomitting to whomever reads them. 

Dementia impacts behaviour, memory, judgement, language etc., and with all of these disadvantages due to the loss of brain function --- including Chambers' old age and confinement in a nursing home, Chambers' vulnerability was not protected. It was abused. 

Castleview Wychwood Towers has some interesting points to their mission statement:

  • We believe that we are guests in the resident's home, and the resident is the focus of all services.
  • We believe in respecting the uniqueness of each individual, for their personal integrity, dignity and self-esteem, and their rights to personal privacy and confidentiality.
  • We believe in providing a range of care and services to maximize each residents physical, social and emotional potential.
  • We believe that each person should be encouraged to retain or regain independence.

Interestingly enough, some of you might say that one staff members' abusive behaviour shouldn't reflect on the entire nursing home's capability as caregivers. 
You could be right. But in this specific case, you're not.

Would it help if I told you that nursing homes have a secrecy culture of keeping these abuses on the low? What about if I said that the incidents are mishandled by staff AND management and that these incidences were well known before they were reported. It took one nurse who caught the accused in the room with Chambers to speak out against this. She risked her job and scrutiny by her superiors in the nursing home. Often times, this doesn't happen. 
Without investigations, these cases would have never made the front page of any paper. 


  1. Hey Who's That Girl!

    Long time reader, first time commenter!

    This is a very strong post for many reasons. I wanted to say how happy I was to see you recognize sexual assault as a form of violence which is strong in many senses. It shows that sexual assault against Danae Chambers, a victim of Dementia, is as significant and as big of an offense as other forms of violence, like killing. This specific case of a marginalized woman with a disability is being taken advantaged by a person who holds a position of power. Although he was responsible to serve and help Chambers, his apparent trust worthy image as a practical nurse was abused. This power derives from not only in his position but, as you said, from being an able-bodied white male. These assaults committed by persons of this background are greatly under-recognized and reported because institutions like the nursing homes are more concerned about the sole reputation of themselves. By reputation, I also mean their concern is losing money.
    I think a situation like this can be compared to something like war. Soldiers are sent over seas to 'serve', 'protect', and 'bring peace' to nations who 'need' their help. However, what is almost never seen is how soldiers also abuse their powers the way the male practical nurse, Leonid Kozlov, did. They rape women, abuse citizens, and kill people until the day that the soldier is killed, brought back to their respective country only to be recognized and honored for their peacekeeping services overseas. Of course, this is not recognized just like the way sexual assaults in our domestic institutions are not as well. There is no doubt that sexual assaults are more common than reported just as forms of power are abused and not showcased to the public. There is too much at stake. And what is the stake? Money, power, and capital.

  2. Thank you for your comment.
    On the topic of war and soldiers abusing their power-- it is rarely seen, yes, which is unfortunate. That topic isn't only manifested by abuse of citizens and rape of women. It's an intersection of patriarchy, normative masculinity, anti-homosexuality, racism, colonialism and so on. You're right, it is underreported and not recognized. It is comparable to the Danae Chambers situation in terms of abuse of power on marginalized individuals. Sadly, money, power and capital are all deemed as more important than the human rights and dignity.
    Thanks for keeping up with the reading :) Comment as much as you like!

  3. "The problems continue because the nursing home system is taking increasingly sick and demented residents but lacks the money for increased staffing levels to provide a minimum amount of daily care."

    The problem exists because our society hates women. Women are considered garbage in our society. The majority of nursing home residents are women, and we are so much unwanted detritus, that the nursing home sites are not funded, staff are not trained or veted (lies) or held accountable. 2017, and this is still happening in every jurisdiction.

    I plead with young women, feminists, to get into these nursing homes as visitors and friends to the residents. Pick someone, and be there for them. These people only get away with what they do because no one cares, not even women who are women's rights activists. Even they do not see old women are human.

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