Child sexual abuse: relationship between sexual acts and genital findings

Child Abuse Negl. 1989;13(2):211-6. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(89)90007-0.


A comparison was made between the findings observed during the examination of female victims of sexual abuse with the sexual acts to which the perpetrator confessed to have performed. In Shelby County, TN, during the calendar years 1985-1987, 30 individuals confessed to have sexually assaulted 31 girls. The mean age of the girls was 9.1 years, and that of the offenders was 30 years. In 18 of the 31 cases the offender admitted to vaginal penetration. Specific findings were observed in 11 of these 18 (61%) girls, compared with only 3 of 13 (23%) girls when penetration was denied. Although specific findings were more commonly observed when the perpetrator admitted to vaginal penetration, in 7 of 18 girls (39%) the examiner described normal appearing genitalia (n = 2), or nonspecific abnormalities only (n = 5). The author concludes that all complaints of sexual abuse must be considered potentially valid and should be investigated further, even if the physical examination fails to detect any abnormalities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anal Canal / injuries
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child, Preschool
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • United States
  • Vagina / injuries