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Sexual Abuse

Medical procedures

Most of the time, acts of sexual abuse perpetrated on a child do not cause injury to the genital and anal areas. The absence of any injury, however, does not suggest that the child was not the victim of sexual abuse.

A child who has been the victim of sexual abuse or who is suspected to have suffered sexual abuse should be examined by a doctor.

A medical examination serves to:

  1. establish the child’s physical and mental state of health;
  2. screen for any sexually transmitted infections, if necessary;
  3. reassure the child of their physical integrity;
  4. look for signs of sexual abuse or other forms of abuse;
  5. gather evidence by using the sexual assault evidence kit, if any, and by administering the tests ordered by the doctor.

If the assault or the last episode of sexual abuse took place within the previous five days, a medical visit to a designated centre must be done quickly because evidence-gathering tests cannot be done after this period.

If the assault or last episode of sexual abuse occurred more than six days earlier, and the child has lesions, exhibits significant physical symptoms, is experiencing psychological distress or needs protection, it is still necessary to take them to the emergency to consult a doctor.

Most of the tests are done by appointment and in specialized clinics as to avoid repeating them needlessly. These designated centres receive victims whose condition requires a medical examination or tests for evidence-gathering purposes (children, teenagers, women, and men). There are designated centres in many areas across Quebec. They can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are found in hospital emergency units or other locations.

The sexual assault evidence kit serves to administer tests on the child’s body. Any clothing items that may contain any traces or secretions of the perpetrator are also collected. It is the doctor who decides whether or not to proceed with the administration of any evidence-gathering tests based on the following factors:

  • The amount of time passed since the last episode of sexual abuse,
  • The victim’s consent and their decision to file a police report,
  • The pertinence for administering the tests in relation to the victim’s testimony.

It is important to prepare the child for this examination by giving them age-appropriate information, such as letting them know a doctor will be giving them a checkup and reassuring them that this type of checkup does not hurt and will not be forced upon them. The doctor may also stop the checkup at the request of the child if they become anxious or uncooperative.

Examination of the genital and anal areas

For both girls and boys, the procedure consists in conducting an external examination of the genital organs (unless there is suspicion of a medical or surgical problem, which is very rare). For girls, the examination is done without touching the vaginal area and without using a speculum. The perianal area must also be examined in all victims of sexual abuse, boy or girl.

Some designated centres and specialized clinics use a colposcope for examining the genital area. The colposcope is a camera equipped with a very bright light and high magnification capabilities that enables the doctor to look for any existing lesions without having to touch the genital organ.

About this page
Updated on 10/6/2014
Created on 10/6/2014
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