Advocacy, Our stories, Real life

90-year-old grandmother’s hospital rape goes viral

On August 18, 2017, Ran Shirdan, grandson of Sonja Shirdan (both pictured above), took to Facebook to post the account of his 90-year-old grandmother Sonja’s rape by a personal support worker at Mackenzie Health Hospital in Ontario, Canada, in 2015.

Not surprisingly, the post went viral on FB (a week after it was first posted it had 27,000 shares), and the shocking story was reported by Canadian media including CityNewsToronto (see that story here), and Global News.

Background to the Shirdan story here: Support Worker Gets Sweetheart Deal.

More links on why elder abuse remains prevalent in care institutions here.

Here is Ran Shirdan’s August 18 Facebook post in its entirety:

Nearly two years ago. On the week of her 90th birthday, my grandmother, Sonja Shirdan, tied down, was beaten and raped by a hospital-employed PSW, Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh, at Mackenzie Health Hospital in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. For two years, I have been silenced. But silence is betrayal and today, I break that silence.

The Canadian health system has kept this hushed; the Canadian legal system has swept this under the rug. Publications are afraid to air this out, and victims’ families are coerced into silence.

Here, today, I beg of you to SHARE this story far and wide; make it spread like wildfire. SHARE to your page, others’ pages, public pages. Make this story viral so to prevent others from being victimized just the same. Make this story viral so to open this Pandora’s box of bureaucratic corruption, however high its chain of command may be; to disincentivize the concealment and encouragement of criminal activity.

Between March 2015 and October 2015, Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh, then 51, allegedly assaulted and sexually assaulted at least five elderly patients, aged 88 to 91, at Mackenzie Health. The hospital’s upper management – from its CEO to Executive VP, Operations Director, Patient Care Manager, Manager of Employee Relations, and Human Resources Director – had been promptly made aware of the assaults, and deliberately elected to conceal all offenses for the majority of the seven-month duration, as later divulged to my mother by hospital management as well as by police.

On September 14 2015, a hospital nurse went in to check on my grandmother, then severely ill with pneumonia, virtually comatose, only kept alive by tubes. To the nurse’s repulsion, she saw Zadeh, a PSW responsible for cleaning and bathing patients, aggressively raping my unconscious grandmother. Her hands were strapped to the bed; her lower lip and arms battered and painted every shade from blue to red. The nurse immediately reported this to hospital management, who instructed her to keep silent. By this point, Zadeh had already spent six months sexually assaulting hospital patients; management knew, and explicitly directed its staff to not disclose a thing to police or victims’ families, so to protect the hospital’s reputation.

Zadeh worked for Mackenzie Health Hospital for 17 months. The aforementioned offenses are the ones we know of. Nearly two years later, many of the victims deteriorated and shortly after passed. Zadeh currently resides with his family in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

Following his ultimate dismissal from the hospital on October 19 2015, following a flaccid two days in jail, Zadeh was employed by Community and Home Assistance to Seniors and proceeded to sexually assault additional women at Hadley Grange, an elderly assisted-living facility in Aurora, Ontario. Zadeh also sexually assaulted an elderly man at the victim’s own home while serving as a PSW for We Care Home Health Services.

In January of 2016, already weaker and ill with another devastating bout of pneumonia, my grandmother was rushed by her nursing home back to the neighbouring Mackenzie Health. Following weeks on life support, of treatment and recovery, she was returned to the comforts of her nursing home – thin as a rail, psychologically devastated, again with arms painted all shades of hell.

On May 31 2017, Zadeh’s charges were discounted on a “sweetheart deal” from fifteen, including thirteen of sexual assault, to one. His intended trial of five weeks? Closed. All victim and family testimonies: dismissed without notice. All sexual assault charges expunged as though never existed. The reasoning? Insufficient evidence. But wait, do testimonies not equate to evidence? The court ordered the investigation to immediately close, and knowingly let a serial criminal on the loose.

On August 1 2017, my mother, fiancé and I met with the Crown Attorney at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. We sought clarification for the criminal verdict. The Crown – satanically cold, conceited, calculated – venomously acknowledged said crimes with ease and an unapologetic smirk. He admitted to the number of offenses and sexual nature of the attacks, shamelessly recognized that Zadeh is a danger to the public presently and in the future, repeatedly stressed we must accept this is how the system works, and that the case is incontestably closed.

Nearly two years later, my family has endured an unspeakable toll. The other families too. I, scarred for life. My mother? A shadow of her former self. My grandmother? Dead.

Abuse exists because of secrecy. The abuser didn’t protect you, so why should you protect the abuser? One’s silence is another’s suffering. To be silent is to be an accomplice. It is my objective to use this platform – among others – to break that silence.

If you are a major print or online publication, news outlet, television talk show, media personality, advocacy group, elderly or women’s advocacy group, integrity campaigner, or a spokesperson of sorts, please do not hesitate to reach out. This synopsis message is where a public revolution for change commences; do you want to be a part of that change?

I believe stories like this are just the tip of the iceberg, here’s why. It’s time to join Ran Shirdan and his family in breaking the silence.

More links on why elder abuse remains prevalent in care institutions here.

See CityNewsToronto video interviews with Shardan as well as president of the Ontario Personal Support Worker (PSW) Association’s reaction to the story.

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