In recent years, the problem of rape and sexual abuse of young persons has received increasing medical and societal attention. Nearly 50% of reported rape victims are adolescents.1-3 Whereas the vast majority of offenses involve girls, the incidence of sexual assaults on young men also seems to be increasing.
Although community resources may vary considerably, most metropolitan areas now have special programs on facilities to assist the victims of sexual assault. Such assistance usually includes advice regarding the management of the acute crisis as well as guidelines for the collection of evidence and preparation for trial should legal action follow. Because so many of the victims are adolescents, they are being seen with increasing frequency in pediatric emergency rooms.
The adolescent who is forcibly assaulted may display a wide range of behaviors, such as hysterical crying, giggling, on agitation, and may have feelings of degradation, anger, rage, helplessness, and nervousness and rapid mood swings. The victim is often angry, confused, and filled with selfblame. Alternatively, the adolescent may appear calm and controlled, masking internal turmoil. In cases of forcible assault, long-term sequelae such as fears, nightmares and sleep disturbances, disturbed peer and sexual relationships, and psychosomatic complaints may develop. Some victims fear retaliation from their attacker and develop ritualistic behavior as a defense. Some believe their bodies to be permanently damaged and may even fear death as a consequence of the violent act they have experienced.
For the victim, the circumstances of the initial medical evaluation may be frightening and stressful.
- Copyright © 1988 by the American Academy of Pediatrics