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Do Physicians Recognize Sexual Abuse?

Helen L. Britton, MD
Am J Dis Child. 1987;141(4):402-403. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1987.04460040060011.
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Using conservative statistics on reported cases of child abuse from the American Human Society and the National Incidence of Child Abuse Study,1 it may be predicted that a physician is at least ten times as likely to see a child in his practice suspected of being sexually abused than he is to see one case of phenylketonuria. Like phenylketonuria, the effects of sexual abuse are often chronically debilitating; however, there is no screening mechanism for this condition. Retrospective studies that include unreported cases of abuse indicate an even higher incidence of the problem and suggest that 1% to 3% of all children have had a significant sexually abusive experience before reaching adulthood.2 Yet, as evidenced by Ladson and Johnson's3 study in this issue of AJDC, physicians are generally not prepared to deal with this issue. Considering the chronic disabling physical and mental health sequelae of child sexual


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