The Physicians Role in Identifying and Aiding Victims of Sexual Assault

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Sexual assault is defined as any sexual act performed by one person on another without consent. It may result from the use of force, the threat of force, or from the victim's inability to give consent. Lifetime prevalence of sexual assault in the United States is estimated to be 18 percent in women and 3 percent in men [1]. About 50 percent of sexual assault victims have some acquaintance with their attackers. Two-thirds of assaulted women over 55 are assaulted in their own home or in a care facility [2]. In men, the prevalence of assault appears to be higher among those who are gay, bisexual, veterans, prison inmates, or seeking mental health services [3]. Legal definitions, procedures, and reporting requirements vary by state. In most states, only rapes involving children or elders require reporting by providers, while others require mandatory reporting for any sexual assault. Even when reporting is mandatory, victims can remain anonymous for examination and reporting purposes. Evidence should be collected at the time of the initial evaluation and stored securely even if the patien...

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