Genital injury: Is it significant? A review of the literature

  • Lincoln C
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The purpose of this review was to critically evaluate the available literature on genital injury in order to faciliatate an understanding of its significance in relation to sexual offence trials. Wide variation exists in research objectives, study populations, and methodoogy, hindering interpretation considerably. The most valuable research in this field idenitfies the range of normal genital findings and those associated with consensual sexual intercourse, to enable interpretation of genital findings in sexual assault victims. However, there are, unfortunately, few studies of this nature. Difficulties arise when examining doctors are not experienced in the genital examination of those other than sexual assault victims, limiting their ability to draw conclusions about genital injury if it is detected. If the methods of genital examination employed are not the same as those used to examine a wide range of non-sexual assault victims, comparison and thus valuable interpretation is further limited. This review of literature finds that the most appropriate genital examinations and indeed the most legally valuable as far as interpretation is concerned, are done macroscopically by doctors with considerable experience in the examination of normal, diseased, and traumatized genitilia, and a sound knowledge of the principles of injury interpretation. A deficiency exists in the literature in relation to macroscopic genital examination findings in consensually sexually active women who have been examined by forensically trained doctors. This deficiency must be addressed before the medicolegal significance of genital injury relating to sexual assault can be accurately interpreted, and before any decision is made to incorporate colposcopy or staining techniques into the routine assessment of sexual assault victims.

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