Objective: Our goal was to identify vulvar and hymenal characteristics associated with sexual abuse among female children between the ages of 3 and 8 years.
Study design: Using a case-control study design, we examined and photographed the external genitalia of 192 prepubertal children with a history of penetration and 200 children who denied prior abuse. Bivariate analyses were conducted by chi(2), the Fisher exact test, and the Student t test to assess differences in vulvar and hymenal features between groups.
Results: Vaginal discharge was observed more frequently in abused children (P =.01). No difference was noted in the percentage of abused versus nonabused children with labial agglutination, increased vascularity, linea vestibularis, friability, a perineal depression, or a hymenal bump, tag, longitudinal intravaginal ridge, external ridge, band, or superficial notch. Furthermore, the mean number of each of these features per child did not differ between groups. A hymenal transection, perforation, or deep notch was observed in 4 children, all of whom were abused.
Conclusion: The genital examination of the abused child rarely differs from that of the nonabused child. Thus legal experts should focus on the child's history as the primary evidence of abuse.