Sexual assault is characterized by any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent. Classifications vary based on the status of the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim (eg, stranger, acquaintance) and characteristics of the victim herself (eg, child, elder adult, mentally disabled adult). Regardless of the classification, sexual assault is a significant individual as well as public health issue affecting women of all ages. While the majority of sexual assault cases are not initially reported to law enforcement, the best available data suggest the lifetime prevalence of sexual assault in the United States is approximately 20% among adult women. With such a significant proportion of women affected by sexual assault, women’s health care providers in both ambulatory and emergency care settings play key roles in the evaluation, management, and advocacy of these victims. Establishing standard protocols based on state laws and on victim-centered practices to avoid revictimization of the patient is critical.
The primary goals of care include the assessment and treatment of physical injuries, psychological assessment and support, pregnancy assessment and prevention, and therapy for prevention of sexually transmitted infections. In addition, evidentiary collection is a critical component of the sexual assault evaluation and subsequent legal proceedings.
This report focuses specifically on the immediate evaluation and management of adult female victims of sexual assault. Best practices include the utility of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner programs, as well as standardized treatment protocols.
Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians.
After completing this activity, the learner should be better able to (1) be familiar with the clinical and forensic components of the initial evaluation of a female victim of sexual assault; (2) provide counseling and treatment for pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infections, and human immunodeficiency virus following a sexual assault; (3) discuss the immediate and long-term sequelae following sexual assault; and (4) identify available local resources for sexual assault victims.