Violence against women by partners is a serious human rights violation and a significant global public health issue. Overall, an estimated 27% of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence (SV) at the hands of a partner. According to 2019 data from the US Department of Justice, SV in the United States occurs every 73 seconds, with child victims every 9 minutes. Lifetime rates of SV are around 17%-18% for women and 3% for men.
The emergency department remains the most common place where patients who have experienced SV seek comprehensive care, including emergency contraception, prophylaxis against sexually transmitted infections, forensic evidence collection for rape cases, and treatment for injuries.
Physical injuries from SV are not always detectable. Studies report variable percentages, ranging from 30%-80% of patients with traumatic SV injuries. Evidence regarding their severity is conflicting. Genital injuries are more common in assaults by acquaintances and in victims not using hormonal contraceptives.
The presence or absence of anogenital injuries following SV is a factor that can influence both victims’ willingness to report a crime and the judicial decision-making process regarding accusations and convictions.
The mythology of rape has been under discussion for more than 50 years, encompassing concerns that rape myths reinforce ideas about what does and does not constitute SV and who is a credible victim.
Rape myths, classically defined in the 1980s, are “prejudiced, stereotyped, and false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists,” designed to “deny or minimize perceived harm or blame victims for their victimization.” The concept remains relevant to contemporary societal beliefs and concerns.
A systematic review analyzed elements of rape myths related to victim characteristics and their impact on credibility and blame attribution in the investigative process. Victims who knew the (male) perpetrator and were deemed provocative based on attire were assigned greater blame. In addition, detail and consistency in victims’ statements and the presence of physical evidence and injuries increased credibility. However, in certain situations, rape myths may lead to blaming victims who do not fit the “real victim” stereotype, thus resulting in secondary victimization or revictimization.
Anogenital injuries can occur in relation to consensual sexual activity (CSA), and SV may not be associated with injuries. Therefore, the presence of anogenital injuries does not “prove” SV nor does their absence exclude rape.
This statement is supported by a systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the prevalence of anogenital injuries in women following SV and CSA, using consistent examination techniques for better forensic evidence evaluation in criminal proceedings.
The following two groups were defined for comparison: SV, indicating any nonconsensual sexual contact with the survivor’s anogenital area, and CSA, representing the same type of sexual contact with participants’ consent.
The outcome measure was the presence of anogenital injury (defined as any genital, anal, or perineal injury detected using described techniques in each study). With no universal definition of genital trauma, the result assessment was dichotomous: The presence or absence of injury.
The systematic search yielded 1401 results, and 10 cohort studies published from 1997 to 2022 met the inclusion criteria. The study participants were 3165 women, with 59% (1874/3165) surviving SV.
Anogenital injuries were found in 48% of women who experienced SV (901/1874) and in 31% of those with CSA (394/1291). Anogenital injuries were significantly more likely in women who had experienced SV, compared with those with CSA (risk ratio, 1.59; P
Some SV survivors had no identified anogenital injuries, and women examined after CSA had detectable anogenital injuries. Subgroup analysis for high-quality studies showed no significant differences between groups. These data support the hypothesis that the presence of anogenital injuries does not prove SV, and the absence of injuries does not disprove it.
Point for Practice
Numerous myths reinforce cultural attitudes toward reporting SV. One myth suggests that physical violence, and thus injuries, are an inevitable accompaniment to rape. If the victim does not react physically, it might be argued that it was not really rape, or without physical trauma, one might be less inclined to believe that a rape occurred.
Physicians and healthcare professionals involved in the care and support of SV survivors must explicitly reassure them that the lack of anogenital injury evidence does not diminish the credibility of their account.
This article was translated from Univadis Italy, which is part of the Medscape Professional Network.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/how-do-anogenital-injuries-relate-rape-accusations-2024a10002jm?src=rss
Publish date : 2024-02-05 13:35:17
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