A Victoria care aide has been acquitted of sexually assaulting three elderly women at Aberdeen Hospital in July 2018.
Amado Ceniza, 40, was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of touching for a sexual purpose involving each of the women. Ceniza, who emigrated from the Philippines in 2010 and became a care aide in 2015, said the touching was for health care purposes only. He denied any sexual purpose.
“After careful consideration of the evidence, I am unable to decide whom to believe,” provincial court Judge Dwight Stewart said Monday. “In both circumstances, the law mandates an acquittal. I find the accused not guilty.”
The three women were all high functioning, articulate adults suffering from a physical or mobility issue from which they were expected to recover. All needed help with bathing, toileting and perineal care, which is washing the genitals.
During the trial, health care witnesses testified that care aides have the responsibility to make assessments about skin and skin breakdown and the application of cream to prevent wounds.
The first complainant testified that Ceniza held her legs down and put cream in between her legs, moving his hand up and down three times.
Ceniza asked her for a hug and attempted to kiss her, but she pushed him away. She thought of him as a nice guy, that he was sweet. When he walked into her room, he would say: “Are you ready for me, my love.”
The woman was annoyed with those kinds of remarks, court heard.
The second complainant was separated from the first woman by a curtain. The morning after the first incident, the second complainant pulled the curtain back and told her neighbour she thought she’d been raped. The two women discussed in detail what happened and then went down the hall to talk to a social worker.
The second woman testified that Ceniza touched her genitals and massaged her breasts in a circular motion, then kissed her on the neck and face. However, she could not identify Ceniza. She was certain he had no accent, even though the judge noted that he spoke English with a heavy accent. The only way she recognized him was seeing pictures of him on the internet after the allegations were made public.
The third complainant testified that Ceniza applied cream to the vaginal area with a gloved hand.
The Crown noted that all the incidents occurred after 8 p.m., at bedtime or after the resident went to bed. All were lying prone or slightly elevated. All involved a gloved hand, washing with warm soapy water to the groin area and application of lotion to the vaginal area.
The judge did not find intentional collusion between the women, but rather unintentional collusion. The first two complainants often finished each other’s sentences and lived in close proximity.
“It was never asked of either witness if they heard anything of the other’s experience that night,” Stewart noted.
Ceniza’s testimony had very detailed recollections.
Ultimately, Stewart said he was left with reasonable doubt about whether the application of cream was for a sexual purpose.
“I make the same finding with the breasts and folds under the breast that this is consistent with skin care and wound prevention and a reasonable doubt remains with respect to the nature of touching,” said Stewart.
The judge found it probable that Ceniza did try to hug and kiss the first woman.
“I find it was highly unprofessional but it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be for a sexual purpose.”
Stewart told Ceniza that the physical contact and addressing patients with endearments like “sweetie” or “honey” is highly inappropriate.
“These women are patients and adults. They are not children. They are elders and in this process they have shown courage. They are deserving of respect and dignity,” he said.