A Forensic Medical Exam may be requested by the investigative team, by a caregiver or pediatrician. The purpose of the exam is to collect evidence, to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections or injuries, to assess for pregnancy, and to identify and document any forensically significant findings, as well as any other medical conditions and/or psychological/psychiatric concerns. Most importantly, it is performed to reassure the child/teen and family that his/her body is okay.
All exams are completed by a doctor or pediatric nurse practitioner who has received special training. If the abuse is considered acute (sexual abuse within the past 72 hours,) a medical provider from the MUSC Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics may conduct an exam in the MUSC Children’s Emergency Room. This is primarily done to collect evidence for local Law Enforcement and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED.) This may also be the case if the child has any current marks, bruises, or burns due to physical abuse. If the abuse occurred over 72 hours ago, a non-emergent exam is conducted at DCC by the medical provider. Regardless of when children are evaluated, most children will have a normal examination. This does not, however, rule out the possibility that abuse has occurred. It is possible that children and teens have been abused without injury or lasting signs.
The medical exam will take place in a child friendly room and is not invasive or painful. The exam will include a medical and social history from the caregiver, as well as the child. The child will receive a thorough head to toe exam similar to a normal check-up at a Pediatrician’s office. This includes looking at their eyes, ears, mouth, skin, listening to their heart and lungs, and checking their abdomen. This exam will also include an external inspection of the genitalia and anal area to make sure they appear normal. A special camera called a colposcope is used during the exam. It has a light and magnifies the area to allow the provider to see more closely. It never touches the child’s body or is felt by the child. It is important to understand that the child’s medical exam is different and less invasive than an adult pelvic examination. Though an exam is typically pain-free, occasionally lab work may need to be completed. A typical exam usually lasts about an hour.
For most children, the check-up is not scary. Nevertheless, it is normal for your child to feel a little nervous, embarrassed or uncomfortable about the exam. Our staff takes as much time as your child needs to help them through the exam. The medical provider will also explain each step of the check-up along the way, to reduce your child’s stress. Children are encouraged to bring along a stuffed animal or blanket to help them feel more relaxed.