If the parent goes to the child's physician, he may refer them to a physician who specializes in evaluating and treating sexual abuse
. This is important because not all physicians are qualified to detect signs and make determinations regarding evidence of prior sexual abuse. If the abuse was reported to either law enforcement
or child protective services
and it occurred very recently, they will request that the medical exam occur immediately. If a Child Abuse Assessment Center
is in the area, one of these agencies will schedule a time for an emergency forensic examination and interview. However, if the abuse occurred in the past, the medical exam can occur later.
Child Abuse Assessment Centers have physicians either on-staff or on-call that are trained to detect both physical and non-physical signs of abuse. The examining doctor will evaluate the child's condition and treat any physical problem related to the abuse. The physician will gather evidence to help protect the child and reassure the child that he or she is all right. On the date of the interview at the Child Abuse Assessment Center, both Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services are usually onsite. They are gathering evidence to detemine if the case can be substantiated and if charges will be filed against the perpetrator.
Physicians in assessment centers have significant training and expertise in the area of sexual abuse. They write recommendations that include their evaluation of the veracity of the sexual abuse report. They make referrals for additional services for child and family. Physicians are able to assess other medical issues at the time of the forensic interview and discuss these findings with the mother. When interacting with older children, the physician is a key support person that can provide information and recommendations to the child for increased safety and physical health.