Child Sexual Abuse: Why is it underreported in the Medical Community?

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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a problem that exists everywhere. CSA is defined as any sexual activity with a child when consent is not or cannot be given. Every state in the U.S. mandates that professionals report any suspicion of sexual abuse to a child protection agency. This mandate includes physicians and nurses.

Data collected in 2002 stated that out of all reported CSA cases made by professionals, medical personal represented the smallest number of reported cases. Some studies suggest that professionals do not always report suspected CSA. Perhaps inadequate training and knowledge on the subject matter is partly to blame.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend that health care providers screen for CSA during routine visits, and that pediatricians make it a part of all well-baby visits.

Physicians and nurses play an important role in recognizing and reporting any suspicion of CSA. Physical signs of abuse are not always present, therefore it important that all healthcare providers develop a trusting relationship with their patients.

Simply asking the child if they have any questions or concerns may prompt them to disclose their situation. In the absence of physical evidence and without patient disclosure here are a few important things that all healthcare providers should do: Stay informed about the psychological and behavioral signs of abuse, increase your level awareness of how prevalent CSA really is, and remember that as a professional it is pertinent that you advocate for any child you suspect may be a victim of CSA.

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