Adolescent complainants of sexual assault; injury patterns in virgin and non-virgin groups

J Clin Forensic Med. 2006 May;13(4):172-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jcfm.2006.02.006. Epub 2006 Mar 27.


Introduction: Misconceptions about the likelihood of sustaining injuries following rape or sexual assault can have a detrimental effect on the justice process. This is particularly noticeable with regard to first time intercourse. Forensic physicians have a duty to put any examination findings in context. This study sets out to compare the findings in virgin and non-virgin adolescents seen at the St Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre, after an allegation of non-consensual intercourse.

Methodology: The records of all females aged 12-17 years old, examined in an 18 month period were reviewed.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-four clients fitted this group with a mean age of 14.8 years. Eighty-one were "virgins" and 97 had been sexually active prior to the assault. The virgin group took longer to present for examination then the non-virgin group (90 h compared to 44 h). Of all clients 51% had a non-genital injury. These tended to be minor. 32% of the non-virgin group had a genital injury. In the virgin group, 53% had a genital injury, however only 32% had the type of genital injury that would leave permanent evidence of penetration (i.e. if examined several weeks or more later). Alcohol use prior to assault was common.

Conclusions: Genital and or body injuries are not routinely found in adolescents after an allegation of rape or sexual assault even when there has not been previous sexual experience. The absence of injury does not exclude the possibility of intercourse, whether with or without consent.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services
  • Child
  • Coitus*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Genitalia, Female / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination / standards
  • Rape / diagnosis*
  • Rape / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*