Medical referral and evaluation
Your child will benefit from a specialized medical evaluation. Because children often delay disclosing abusive events for weeks or even months, the medical assessment is not considered an emergency procedure in most instances.
Sunflower House believes that a specialized child abuse medical evaluation is beneficial for the child, the investigation process, and the prosecution of child abuse cases. A specialized child abuse medical evaluation:
- Assesses your child’s overall physical, emotional, and developmental health
- Collects any physical evidence of abuse
- Identifies injury and/or disease to be treated
- Helps restore a child’s sense of well-being
- Provides a permanent record of the specialized medical evaluation for investigators during the investigation process
The key to a thorough medical evaluation is the choice of examiner. A pediatrician or physician assistant specifically trained in the evaluation of child abuse will offer the best service to the child victim, the family and the investigators. It is recommended that a child who discloses abuse be seen by a health care provider who specializes in child abuse evaluations. Taking your child to the local emergency department or a primary care physician may result in inadequate evaluation requiring referral to the child abuse specialist and making it necessary to do a another exam.
The primary goal of the medical examination is to assess your child’s overall state of health – physically, emotionally, and developmentally – and to reassure your child about what has happened to his or her body. Besides looking for any signs of abuse, the examiner will provide your child with a complete physical exam, much like a school or well-baby checkup.
When sexual abuse is the concern, a special examination of your child’s genital area will be included. If there is concern about sexually transmitted disease, swabs of the genital area will be obtained. If there is evidence of abuse present, the examiner will fully document this for the investigators. When additional testing is necessary, this will be explained to both you and your child. In the event that a medical condition unrelated to the abuse is identified, the examiner will assist you in arranging further follow-up, if needed. If laboratory testing is completed, the nurse will call you when he/she receives the results.
In most cases, the examiner will take pictures of your child during the medical evaluation. The examiner will explain the purpose of these pictures to you and your child. In all cases, the pictures are kept private and only the examiner has access to them.
The examination is thorough but not traumatic for the vast majority of children. In fact, most children and their families find an exam reassuring after experiencing an abusive event. The examiner will make every effort to make your child as comfortable as possible. You can be assured that your child will be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process.
Parents should be aware that the medical evaluation is not used as the only evidence to support or deny that abuse has occurred. A lack of medical findings does not mean that your child is not telling the truth. Most sexual abuse does not involve injury. Even when injuries do occur, children’s bodies recover remarkably quickly. The main advantage of the evaluation is that it allows a healthcare professional to assure you and your child that his/her body is healthy.