Written by Stephen Rheinberg
Friday, October 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) – Victims sexual assault They are seeking treatment in US emergency rooms in increasing numbers, with University of Michigan (UM) researchers finding a 15-fold increase between 2006 and 2019.
Rape and other forms of sexual assault occur every 68 seconds in the United States, and the number rose from 93,000 in 2006 to nearly 140,000 in 2019, according to data from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The study authors said that the increase in the number of people seeking emergency medical care after sexual violence is greater than the growth in those who turn to the police for help.
The researchers noted that while more sexual assaults are occurring, increased awareness and changes to hospital coding are also contributing to the surge.
“Removing shame in general – whether it’s due to the Me-Too movement or other social and political movements – has made people feel more secure when coming and seeking care,” said Emily Vogt, a medical student at Amelia University.
Vogt added that it was not clear whether people who go to the emergency room after they have been sexually assaulted will not go to the police. “They may feel like this is the only place they can go,” she said.
For the study, Vogt and her colleagues used data from millions of emergency department visits. They found that in 2006, more than 3,600 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 sought emergency care after experiencing sexual assault. In 2019, that number jumped to nearly 55,300. (For support, contact RAINN, the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network’s hotline.)
Vogt’s team found that those seeking ER treatment were disproportionately younger and poorer women.
However, despite the rise in emergency care, hospitalizations after sexual assault fell by 8% — from just under 13% to 4%. The results showed that most patients (95%) were sent back to their homes.
Vogt said admissions may have decreased due to lack of insurance, fewer empty beds, or victims’ unwillingness to be hospitalized due to privacy concerns.
Patients who were admitted tended to be poorer and had Medicaid. Victims between the ages of 46 and 65 are also more likely to be treated than younger adults, Vogt said, possibly because the assault exacerbated other medical conditions.
Overall, emergency department visits increased by 23% over the same period, and sexual assault accounted for less than 1% of visits. However, researchers report that hospital fees for sexual assault visits exceeded $233 million in 2019, up from $6 million in 2006.
Vogt said psychotherapy can be better at helping patients after they have been sexually assaulted. She suggested that “the emergency department, although it’s a better place to go to than anywhere else, is probably not the best place. We need better kinds of outpatient care.”
Vogt predicts that the numbers of sexual assault will continue to increase. “We haven’t even been able to look back at the years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we already know from other studies has definitely increased sexual assault rates,” she explained.
“A lot of these patients are being sent home, and it’s unclear if they are getting the attention they deserve,” Vogt said. “We know these patients are at greater risk [post-traumatic stress disorder]drug abuse and psychological problems as a result of the trauma they have been exposed to.”
The report was published online October 20 in JAMA Network Open.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She said sexual violence remains a major public health concern.
“Reporting of sexual violence and seeking care are not evenly distributed across the population, and inequalities persist,” Miller said. “The health consequences of sexual violence remain unrecognized by our health system, especially among survivors marginalized by gender discrimination, racism, heterosexuality, and abilities,” added Miller, co-author of an editorial in an accompanying journal.
Miller agreed that there is a growing awareness of sexual violence and its increasing incidence.
“As a result of a lot of community campaigns to make experiences of sexual abuse more visible, it appears that more people are seeking care. But it appears that globally, we have seen an increase in interpersonal violence, including child sexual abuse, sexual abuse and interpersonal violence. partner during the pandemic.
She noted that persons already marginalized by gender identity, sexual minorities, females and persons with disabilities are subject to higher incidences of sexual violence.
Miller added that survivors of sexual assault should expect to be treated with respect by law enforcement and emergency room staff. “They should know that they can also order a trained sexual assault nurse to be examined, and they can also request that a victim services attorney be present during the forensic examination,” she said.
However, more is needed to improve survivor-centred care in emergencies. “We need to understand how best to provide meaningful support to survivors and not contribute to re-infection of individuals who have experienced an assault,” Miller said.