The aim of the study was to describe victim, assailant, assault characteristics for sexual assault victims according to the time between the last sexual assault and the examination, and to provide descriptive data on medico-legal findings. The study was based on 418 examined victims of sexual assault during the year 1998. Victims were referred from investigating police authorities. All examinations were performed with the use of colposcopy by physicians with special training in forensic medicine. Two groups of victims were defined: • a first group of victims examined in emergency within 72h after the last sexual assault; • a second group of victims examined after 72h. About 86% of the cases were female victims. The mean age of the cases of the first group was 22.4 years. Conversely, 76% of the victims examined after 72h were under the age of 15 years. Vulnerability was present in 31% of the cases examined in emergency, including disabled and pregnant victims. Sexual assault happened once in 87% of the cases of the first group and in 64% of the cases of the second group. The victim's home was the most frequent place of sexual assault (35% of the cases of the first group and 56% of the cases of the second group). The assailant was a stranger in 51% of the cases of the first group. In the second group of the victims, the assailant was a family member in 58% of the cases (the father in 30% of the cases). There was a single assailant in the majority of the cases for the two groups. Threats were used by the assailant in 66% of the victims examined in emergency and in 33% of the cases of the second group. The type of sexual assault was penetration in the majority of the cases for the two groups. Vaginal, oral and anal penetration was respectively involved in 55, 23 and 13% of the cases of the first group. General body trauma was found in 39.1% of the cases examined in emergency and in 6.3% of the cases of the second group. Genital trauma occurred in 35.7% of the cases of the first group and in 19.5% of the cases of the second group. Hymenal, vulvo-vaginal and anal lesions were respectively found in 11, 20 and 7% of the cases examined in emergency. Toxicological analysis was performed in 14.3% of the cases examined in emergency. In 47% of the tested cases, drug was detected. Cytology was performed in 61.5% of the cases examined in emergency. Detection of spermatozoa was found in 30.3% of these cases. Our study has shown that sexual assault victims had different characteristics according to the time between the sexual assault and the examination. Public health campaigns against sexual abuse and rape as well as medical management of the sexually assaulted victims should adapt to the needs and the characteristics of these two different populations of victims. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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