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Keywords

Adult female genitalia, definition of genital trauma, expert evidence, expert witness, forensic examination, genital injury, medicolegal, prevalence of genital injury, sexual assault, sexual assault nurse examiner

 

Authors

  1. McNair, Susan M. BA, MD, CCFP, MCSLC (FM), FCFP

ABSTRACT

Background: Examination of the adult female genitalia after an acute sexual assault may reveal findings interpreted by the examiner as injuries, which may be linked to later legal outcomes. There is no consistent definition in the literature regarding what findings constitute genital trauma after sexual assault. We studied how the prevalence of genital trauma is impacted by the inclusion/exclusion of various genital findings reported in the literature.

 

Methods: A retrospective descriptive chart review of the sexual assault forensic records from a provincial regional sexual assault treatment center was conducted over a 4-year period and included 67 female patients, 12 years old and over, who reported being sexually assaulted in the previous 72 hours and received a complete forensic examination. We studied the prevalence of genital trauma, using eight definitions of trauma, as well as the percentage of each type of genital finding within this population.

 

Results: The prevalence of genital trauma in this population ranged from 52%, the majority, to 31% of women, depending on the definition of trauma utilized. Forty-one percent of the findings, the greatest number overall, were redness. Bruises, abrasions, and tears (lacerations), the components of blunt force trauma, accounted for 4%, 15%, and 14% of the findings, respectively.

 

Interpretation: A universal definition of what findings constitute genital trauma after acute sexual assault is required if the examiner, as expert witness, is to compare findings in a given case with the broader literature and assist the court in ensuring an informed process of decision making.