Female victims of rape and their genital injuries

Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1997 May;104(5):617-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.1997.tb11543.x.


Objective: A minority (some report < 10%) of women report sexual assault. Of those that negotiate the police process, only a minority will come to a court hearing. It is thought that the courts still rely upon medical evidence, in particular evidence of genital injury to 'prove' the rape. This study aimed to ascertain the incidence of genital injury in victims of alleged rape.

Design: Retrospective review of case records of women who reported they had had been raped, provided by women doctors on the Northumbrian Police Doctors scheme.

Sample: Case records from Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Northumbria.

Methods: Analysis of records in the standardised booklet used by police surgeons to examine women reporting rape.

Main outcome measures: Presence of genital injury, presence of other physical injuries.

Results: A minority of women had genital injuries (22/83); the majority had some form of physical injury (68/83), although most of these were minor.

Conclusion: The study shows that only a minority of women examined by specifically trained police doctors show evidence of genital injury. The absence of genital injury does not exclude rape.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Rape*
  • Retrospective Studies