Perceptions of the Sexual Assault Exam in the Emergency Department Setting

Ann Thomas1, Michelle A. Lyn2, 3, A. Chantal Caviness2, Deborah C. Hsu2, Xuan G. Tran4, Angelo P. Giardino2, 3, 4, *
1 George Washington University School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, USA
2 Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
3 Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX, USA
4 Texas Children’s Health Plan, Houston, TX, USA

© 2012 Thomas et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, Texas Children's Health Plan, P.O. Box 301011, NB-8391, Houston, TX 77230-1011, USA; Tel: 832-828-1216; Fax: 832- 825-8765; E-mail:



The purpose of this study is to determine how pediatric patients and/or their parents being interviewed and examined for suspected sexual assault perceive their experiences in the emergency department.


A prospective study was conducted at an emergency department. A convenience sample was enrolled from September 2007 to February 2009. At the completion of the medical examination, patients and/or parents were asked to take part in a survey.


A total of 87 completed questionnaires were collected; 50 completed by parents/guardians and 37 completed by the patients; 14 patients had both parent and patient questionnaires completed. Of all 87 respondents, 74% of parents and 65% of the patients rated the overall quality of care as excellent, 90% of parents and 70.3% of patients rated the physician kindness as excellent, and 90% and 86.5% respectively rated the nurse kindness as excellent. Of the 50 patients, 35.1% patients found the exam sometimes or very painful and 40.5% found the exam scary sometimes to extremely scary. Patients who perceived the exam painful or scary did not rate their quality of medical care as lower than those who did not find the exam painful or scary, p=0.513 and p=0.800 respectively.


Encouragingly, the emergency department environment did not cause higher levels of distress, anxiety or discomfort than other groups of patients evaluated in child abuse evaluation centers.

Keywords: Child sexual abuse, emergency department setting, medical evaluation for child sexual abuse, patient experience, perception of sexual assault exams, suspected sexual abuse.