Common Injuries Seen as a Result of Sexual Assault
Did you know that injuries can be present after both consensual and nonconsensual sexual contact?
It is true! It is also true that injuries, more commonly, are not seen on a forensic examination after a sexual assault has occurred. Something so physical should absolutely “leave a mark,” but it doesn’t always. You may ask, but why not?
Injuries are not seen because the vagina is a part of the body that was made for physical contact of varying degrees: It is very forgiving, so to speak, when it comes to force. Just because an injury is found does not guarantee that an assault has occurred and vice versa.
Some of the most common injuries seen however, may include erythema, lacerations, contusions, and abrasions.
- Erythema is a red discoloration of the skin. It can be from any internal or external source of irritation or inflammation. Some examples of causes of erythema are infection, trauma, allergic reactions, or burns.
- A Laceration is an open wound caused by impact of blunt force trauma. Lacerations are characterized by irregular wound edges and bridging tissues. Treatment may consist of stapling, suturing, gluing and/or cleansing and bandaging of the wound. Scars may form and most lacerations will heal without further complications.
- Note: Many medical providers will use the term laceration interchangeably with cuts. In the chart, the use of the term “laceration” does not necessarily indicate blunt force trauma occurred.
- A Contusion, commonly called a bruise, is a discoloration of the skin that results from the bursting of blood vessels under the skin due to impact with a blunt object. The surface skin is left intact. Contusions heal on their own within 2-6weeks and do not result in any long-term complications. The more force used, the more severe the injury. As a result, contusions may also be present on internal organs. (Simon, Lopez, & King, Blunt Force Trauma, Updated 2020 Aug 10)
- Note: Many medical providers will use the term contusion interchangeably with ecchymosis. The use of the term “contusion” in the medical records does not necessarily indicate blunt force trauma occurred.
- An Abrasion is an injury caused by friction to the superficial layers of the skin and/or tissue membranes in the body thus breaking the skin/tissue. It typically heals well on its own without need for cleaning the wound. There is usually minimal bleeding and most heal without leaving a scar. (Shrestha, Krishan, & Kanchan, Updated 2020 Aug 8)
These injuries can be seen on any part of the body but the most common location is at the posterior fourchette (a small piece of tissue that connects the labia minora.) Injuries can occur after penetration with penile, digital (finger,) and inanimate objects.
A forensic examination should occur to ensure accurate documentation of any injury both written and via photographs if the patient consents. These are not mandatory but do aid in the investigation and in our review of your case. If they are available, we need them!
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