Following an outcry of abuse, a medical evaluation may be necessary. A sexual abuse case may necessitate a pediatric sexual assault exam. Physical examinations may also be provided, especially in severe physical abuse cases. Medical exams are conducted at local hospitals by child abuse pediatricians and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
Child abuse pediatricians and SANE nurses are specifically trained to:
- Provide comprehensive care to patients who are victims of sexual assault, physical abuse, failure to thrive or neglect
- Evaluate for forensic evidence collection
- Provide effective courtroom testimony if necessary
- Show compassion and sensitivity to children victimized by abuse or neglect
What is a sexual assault medical forensic exam?
A sexual assault medical forensic examination is performed by specially trained medical professionals for the purpose of evaluation and treatment of trauma, treatment of possible exposure to infection, and follow-up medical care and for the collection of evidence following a report of sexual assault by a victim. The medical well-being of the patient is the primary objective of the medical provider at all times during the examination.
What happens during a sexual assault medical forensic exam?
Once consent is obtained from the parent, a medical history is taken by the medical provider to determine injuries and appropriate medical evaluation and treatment for the patient. Details provided during the forensic interview may provide guidance for evaluation and treatment. The next step is a head-to-toe examination, including a visual exam of the genital area, in order for the medical professional to document trauma to any part of the body. Last, a collection of forensic evidence may be done, and a sexual assault evidence collection kit is sometimes used.
What do doctors and nurses look for during these exams?
Medical providers are trained to look for signs of abuse and to account for plausible history of accidental trauma appropriate to a child’s age and stage of development. An examination may provide supportive evidence to be used during legal proceedings.
Medical providers can also look for and treat any injuries or infections. Although it is common for the evaluation to yield no physical findings, this does not mean that abuse did not occur. Evaluations are a valuable step in helping children and their families experience peace of mind as they begin their healing journey.