Nurse practitioner knowledge of child sexual abuse in children with cognitive disabilities

J Forensic Nurs. 2012 Jun;8(2):72-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2011.01129.x. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


The purpose of this study was to describe the knowledge level of nurse practitioners regarding symptoms of child sexual abuse in children with cognitive disabilities. A total sample of 43 nurse practitioners from two professional nurse practitioner organizations was surveyed to assess child sexual abuse symptoms identification in intellectually disabled children using a revised edition of the Child Sexual Abuse Knowledge Survey. Data collected showed nurse practitioners have deficits in identifying various parts of prepubescent female genitalia. The majority of nurse practitioners did not check genitalia in regular physical exams, did not feel competent to perform this type of evaluation, and were not aware of their professional organizations' position regarding checking for child sexual abuse. When assessing a child with an intellectual disability, nurse practitioners must accurately assess physical symptoms and behaviors that could have resulted from sexual abuse. Examining children for sexual abuse is a required duty of the nurse practitioner as evidenced by the position statements of the various professional organizations and nurse practitioners must be aware of their required scope of practice.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Missouri
  • Nurse Practitioners*
  • Physical Examination / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Nurses' / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulnerable Populations