Forensic laboratory evidence in sexually abused children and adolescents

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Jun;160(6):585-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.6.585.


Objectives: To determine if forensic laboratory evidence could be recovered from alleged sexual abuse victims more than 24 hours after the event and to determine if age or historical factors could be used to determine the need for forensic evidence collections.

Design: Retrospective study of hospital records matched with forensic evidence reports from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock.

Setting: The emergency department at Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock.

Participants: Eighty children (aged <12 years) and adolescents (aged > or =12 years) who presented to the emergency department within 72 hours of an alleged event of sexual abuse or assault with genital contact.

Main outcome measures: Cases positive for semen were correlated with age of the victim and post-event length of time to presentation to the emergency department.

Results: Of the 80 subjects, 16 had positive findings for semen. All 16 subjects who tested positive for semen presented to the emergency department less than 24 hours after the alleged abuse or assault event (P<.001). Of the 16 subjects who tested positive, 13 (81%) were adolescents. None of the prepubertal children had semen recovered from any body site; semen was recovered only from clothing or linen in those 3 children.

Conclusions: Forensic evidence collections from body sites in child and adolescent rape patients are unlikely to yield positive results for semen (1) more than 24 hours after the event and (2) when taken from prepubertal patients. Consideration should be given to amending guidelines regarding forensic evidence collections in child and adolescent sexual abuse or assault victims.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Forensic Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Rape / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Semen
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Time Factors