Medical Exams

Medical Exams

Is the medical exam required?

A medical exam is available for all children when appropriate. We do not subject a child to a medical exam if there is not a valid concern and no child will be forced to have one. The investigator may request a child to have an exam if:

    • The abuse involved the child’s genitalia or anus
    • Child has symptoms of vaginal or rectal pain, itching, burning, bleeding, discharge
    • Child or parent has concerns that can best be answered by an examination
    • Child would be reassured by an examination
    • Extent or type of abuse is unclear and may be clarified by an examination
What can I expect during the medical exam?

The medical exam will take place at the center in a child-friendly room. The exam will include a medical history from the caregiver as well as from the child. The child will receive a thorough head to toe exam similar to a normal check-up at a Pediatrician’s office. This exam will also include an external inspection of the genitalia and anal area to make sure they appear normal. It is highly unusual for a preadolescent child to require an internal vaginal or rectal examination. It is important to understand that the child’s medical exam is different and less invasive than an adult pelvic examination.

A special video camera called a colposcope is used during the examination. This allows the nurse to see a child’s genital and anal areas more closely. The camera allows never touches the child’s body and is never felt by the child. The photographs may be taken during the exam to provide an accurate record of what the child’s body looks like at the time of the examination. While the camera does not touch the child, the nurse will have to touch the genital and anal areas with her hands. Some children will be checked for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy based on the clinic’s protocol.

For most children, the check-up is not painful. Nevertheless, children may feel worried, embarrassed or uncomfortable about their exam. It is normal for children to feel anxious about their examination. The nurse will take as much time as necessary to help children throughout the medical evaluation by explaining each step of the check-up and finding ways to put the child at ease.


What should my child know about the medical exam?

If your child receives a medical examination, explain that this is to make sure that his or her body is healthy. Assure your child that this exam will not hurt and that the medical examiner will tell your child everything that she will be doing prior to the exam. If a medical is not requested by the investigative team, you may request a medical exam by contacting the family advocate.


Who can be present during the exam?

Many children want a parent or supportive adult in the exam room with them for comfort and reassurance. Other children prefer to do the exam on their own. The parent, whenever possible, needs to respect the child’s preference in this regard.


Will the exam show whether or not the child has been sexually abused?

Not necessarily. Most children have no physical injuries to their genital or anal areas. This does not mean that no sexual abuse has occurred. It is possible that children have been involved in sexual activity but have not injured their bodies in a way that leave lasting physical signs.