Objective: To determine the prevalence of sexual assault amongst patients attending a department of genitourinary medicine and to investigate the circumstances of the assault.
Setting and subjects: The Department of Genitourinary Medicine (GUM), St. Mary's Hospital, London. All patients attending the walk-in GUM Clinic over a fixed time period were invited to take part in the study.
Methods: Patients were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire designed by the investigators.
Results: 351 (209 women, 142 male) usable questionnaires were returned of 370 distributed. Seventy five persons (21.4%) reported sexual assault: 59 (28.2%) women and 16 (11.3%) men. The incident occurred more than three months before presentation in the majority of persons studied (93%). Twenty one per cent reported the assault to the police, and 34% attended for medical screening. For those who did attend for medical screening, 61% informed their doctor of the assault. The main reason for non-reporting to police and medical staff was "a wish to forget". Counselling was sought by 24% after the sexual assault.
Conclusions: A past history of sexual assault is common amongst GUM clinic attenders, more often disclosed amongst women. Reporting both to police and medical services is low. Clinicians need to be sensitive to the fact that a significant proportion of patients attending GUM services may have been sexually assaulted either in the present or the past and the impact that this may have on health care usage. GUM clinics maybe ideally placed to provide medical and psychological support to these individuals.