The AAP clinical report, "Care of the Adolescent After an Acute Sexual Assault," published in the March 2017 issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 27) defines the term acute sexual assault as assaults having generally occurred within the last 72 hours.
National data show that teenagers and young adults ages 12 to 34 years have the highest rates of being sexually assaulted. Teens may be reluctant to report sexual assault if there has been voluntary participation before an assault occurred, leading adolescents to think that "consent" cannot be withdrawn. They may worry that their perceptions of assault will not be validated or believed. Other reasons for reluctance to report may be:
- Feelings of responsibility or guilt for the event
- Worry about the response of their parents or other authorities
- Fear of negative consequences
- Poor recollection of the assault because of the involvement of alcohol or other substances
The AAP recommends that as part of health wellness exams, pediatricians ask teens if they have experienced sexual violence, dating violence, and sexual assaults.
Pediatricians should be aware of their state's reporting requirements related to sexual assault and laws ensuring teen's rights to medical care after an assault. As part of post-assault treatment, patients should be screened for sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraception should offered to female adolescent patients.
Pediatricians are in a position to offer emotional support, determine the need for counseling or mental health interventions, and refer patients and their families for appropriate care. The revised recommendations also suggest pediatricians work with local high schools, colleges, community groups and law enforcement professionals to enhance and expand programs to reduce sexual violence.