Medical evaluation referral patterns for sexual abuse victims

Roberta A. Hibbard, Terrell W. Zollinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


It has been recommended that all children suspected of being sexually abused should have medical evaluations. To better understand practices and perceptions of child sexual abuse medical evaluations, a survey was conducted of 579 professionals attending educational programs on child sexual abuse; 85.8% (N = 497) responded. Half (50%) of the respondents reported no previous training in child sexual abuse. Of the 336 nonphysician professionals, 194 (57.7%) were in positions where they make referrals of the victims, and 69% of these did not refer all of the children they saw for medical evaluations. The first referral choice for medical evaluation was most often to the victim's primary physician (57%). For those professionals who did not refer all alleged victims for medical evaluation, neither the victims' age, gender, nor accessibility to care were generally considered relevant in determining the decision to refer. However, the type of abuse and presence of physical and psychological symptoms were considered relevant in making the decision. The majority indicated that the findings of the medical exam were very useful in substantiating or refuting the allegation of abuse. Further training for both medical and nonmedical professionals is needed to increase awareness of the need for and implications of the medical evaluation if children are to receive comprehensive assessments. Physicians may play an active role in this process through education of professionals and provision of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-540
Number of pages8
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


  • Medical evaluationsReferral patterns
  • Referral patterns
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

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