Sexual assault cases at a tertiary referral hospital in urban Ethiopia: One-year retrospective review

Lemi Belay Tolu, Wondimu Gudu

Abstract

Introduction

Sexual assault is an important health and social problem affecting young girls. The aim of the study is therefore to do a one-year retrospective review of documents of alleged sexual assaults managed at Saint Paulo’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) to determine survivors’ characteristics, circumstances of the assault, and treatment offered.

Methods

This is a hospital-based one-year retrospective review of alleged sexual assault cases. The case records of survivors were retrieved, reviewed and information extracted analyzed using SPSS version 17. Characteristics of victims of the sexual assault, clinical presentation, and management provided were described by frequency and percentage distribution.

Result

A total of 170 cases of alleged sexual assault who received care during the study period were identified. Around 96% of the survivors were female while there were 6 male cases. The mean age of the victims was 13 yrs. with a range from 2 to 25 yrs. About 23.6% of the victims were less than 10 years. Half of the victims were assaulted by neighbors (45%) followed by strangers (36.5%). The interval between the incident and presentation to the hospital ranged from 2 hours to 93 days (2224 hours) with an average of 98 hours. Most (93.0%) had one or more physical examination findings at presentation. Serology tests for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Syphilis were done in 97.3%, 88.7%, and 84.5% cases respectively. Urine pregnancy tests were done in 62.5% of the cases. Prophylaxis against HIV and STI prophylaxis was provided to 42% and 45% respectively. Social support/counseling was provided to 61% of the victims and legal evidence (certificate) was provided to 45.5% of the cases.

Conclusion and recommendations

Although it is largely not reported by the victims, sexual assault is a grievous offense still happening constantly. Children and young girls remain the most vulnerable. There is inadequate forensic evidence collection, legal and medical care. There is also a delay in presentation to hospital by victims. Therefore, there is a need to have standardized protocols for comprehensive evaluation and care of the survivors. It is also imperative that a multidisciplinary approach like a one-stop clinic should be utilized to provide effective and efficient medical, social, psychological, and legal services. Finally, it is very necessary to increase public awareness and preventive interventions are required particularly to protect the vulnerable age group to enhance their safety.

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