Negligent nursing homes have made way for the sexual assault of elderly residents across the nation. Residents, typically the severely disabled, have filed numerous reports of sexual assault over the years, however, most go unsubstantiated due to the cognitive condition of the patients. 

It’s impossible to know just how many victims are out there. But through an exclusive analysis of state and federal data and interviews with experts, regulators and the families of victims, CNN has found that this little-discussed issue is more widespread than anyone would imagine.

One family’s story details a Minnesota facility where a nursing aide was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an 83-year-old Alzheimers patient. The aide had previously been suspended from his job after other residents had accused him of sexual assault, however, all of the previous cases had fallen through blaming patient’s dementia, hallucinations and, in one case, history of “sexual promiscuity.”

Across the board, nursing homes and state departments have dismissed accusations of sexual assault and failed to investigate, sometimes intentionally. A Minnesota attorney calls it an epidemic.