Anal signs of child sexual abuse: a case–control study

Hobbs, C. J. and Wright, C. M. (2014) Anal signs of child sexual abuse: a case–control study. BMC Pediatrics, 14(128), (doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-14-128)

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Background: There is uncertainty about the nature and specificity of physical signs following anal child sexual abuse. The study investigates the extent to which physical findings discriminate between children with and without a history of anal abuse.<p></p> Methods: Retrospective case note review in a paediatric forensic unit.<p></p> Cases: all eligible cases from 1990 to 2007 alleging anal abuse.<p></p> Controls: all children examined anally from 1998 to 2007 with possible physical abuse or neglect with no identified concern regarding sexual abuse. Fisher’s exact test (two-tailed) was performed to ascertain the significance of differences for individual signs between cases and controls. To explore the potential role of confounding, logistic regression was used to produce odds ratios adjusted for age and gender.<p></p> Results: A total of 184 cases (105 boys, 79 girls), average age 98.5 months (range 26 to 179) were compared with 179 controls (94 boys, 85 girls) average age 83.7 months (range 35–193). Of the cases 136 (74%) had one or more signs described in anal abuse, compared to 29 (16%) controls. 79 (43%) cases and 2 (1.1%) controls had >1 sign. Reflex anal dilatation (RAD) and venous congestion were seen in 22% and 36% of cases but <1% of controls (likelihood ratios (LR) 40, 60 respectively), anal fissure in 14% cases and 1.1% controls (LR 13), anal laxity in 27% cases and 3% controls (LR 10).<p></p> Novel signs seen significantly more commonly in cases were anal fold changes, swelling and twitching. Erythema, swelling and fold changes were seen most commonly within 7 days of last reported contact; RAD, laxity, venous congestion, fissure and twitching were observed up to 6 months after the alleged assault.<p></p> Conclusions: Anal findings are more common in children alleging anal abuse than in those presenting with physical abuse or neglect with no concern about sexual abuse. Multiple signs are rare in controls and support disclosed anal abuse.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wright, Professor Charlotte
Authors: Hobbs, C. J., and Wright, C. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing
Journal Name:BMC Pediatrics
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1471-2431
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMC Pediatrics 14(128)
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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