updated 04/09/2014 AT 12:30 PM ET
•originally published 04/09/2014 AT 11:15 AM ET
An 85-year-old nursing home patient was the victim of “disgraceful sexual perversion” when a male stripper gyrated in front of her against her will at the suburban West Babylon, N.Y., facility, an attorney for the woman’s family said Tuesday.
John Ray, the attorney for Bernice Youngblood and her family, displayed a picture of a man in white briefs dancing in front of the woman at East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in September 2012.
The photo, which Ray said Youngblood’s son found during a visit to his mother, shows the woman putting money into the dancer’s waistband.
Ray said Youngblood had been urged to participate and did so against her will. The family has filed suit against the nursing home seeking unspecified damages.
Youngblood, who attended the news conference in a wheelchair with some of her relatives at her side, mumbled in a barely audible voice that she felt “terrible” and “ashamed” about what happened, but did not remember details.
Howard Fensterman, an attorney representing the facility, said a 16-member resident committee had requested the September 2012 performance and the nursing home paid the $250 fee.
Fensterman said the facility’s management reserves the right to reject a request by the residents’ committee, particularly if the activity were deemed detrimental.
“But in this instance these are adults who wanted to have this activity, they requested it, they voted on it and the nursing home approved of it,” he said.
Fensterman said the girlfriend of one of Bernice Youngblood’s sons, not nursing home employees, had taken her to the stripper show. Ray said Youngblood’s son disputed that claim and, in any case, that does not mean Youngblood was not harmed by what she saw.
Fensterman also chided Ray for claiming that Youngblood was suffering from dementia, while at the same time noting the woman signed a power of attorney document claiming she was competent to sign it.
“Ms. Youngblood suffers from partial dementia,” Ray said. “She has moments of partial lucidity.”
The claims and counter-claims came during a sequence of heated news conferences outside the facility in West Babylon. Reporters and cameramen jostled in a large scrum around Fensterman and Ray when they briefly became embroiled in an argument after Ray presented his counterpart with a copy of the lawsuit complaint.
The state Health Department is investigating the incident, a spokesman said.