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Forensic Sci Int. 1999 Sep 30;104(1):1-15.

Adolescent girls investigated for sexual abuse: history, physical findings and legal outcome.

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  • 1Venhälsan, Söder Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



The aim of the study was to summarize the history of assault and record the results of medicolegal examination in adolescent girls under investigation for alleged sexual abuse, and to monitor the outcome of the legal process. The investigation period was 1990-94.


A consecutive series of 94 0-para girls, aged 9-22, median age 15.0 years, were examined in the head-to-toe manner including anogenital examination. Girls were referred from investigating police and social authorities. Only non-acute examinations were performed. Findings considered consistent with abusive vaginal penetration were hymenal distortion including deep clefts, hymenal and vestibular scarring, and introital diameter permitting vaginal inspection with a 17 mm speculum in the absence of consensual intercourse. Perianal scarring was recorded. STD sampling was made on indication. Findings were documented on body sketches. Medicolegal conclusions were grouped into three categories according to history and physical findings. Information on the outcome of legal procedures was collected from referring authorities.


For 82% (77/94) of the girls, referring agencies provided examining physicians with a detailed and consistent history of abuse, presented results comprise these 77 girls. Intrafamiliar abuse was alleged by 81% (62/77), onset prior to menarche by 53% (41/77), and repeated abuse by 74% (57/77) of the girls. Abusive genital penetration was reported by 77% (59/77) and anal penetration by 19% (14/77). Sequelae after admitted self-inflicted injury were found in 15% (12/77). Deep hymenal clefts and/or vestibular scars were found in 59% (35/59) of the girls reporting penetrative abuse, compared with 6% (1/16) when non-penetrative abuse was alleged, P < 0.001. Girls with experience of voluntary intercourse could all be examined with a 25 mm speculum. Of the 17 girls without experience of consensual intercourse but alleging abusive penetration, 47% (17/36) could easily be examined with a 17 mm speculum, compared to none of 13 reporting non-penetrative abuse, P < 0.001. Non-specific anal abnormalities occurred in 10 (13%) girls; more often when anal abuse was reported, P < 0.001. No specific STDs were found. The medicolegal conclusion supported a history of abusive genital penetration in 41 (69%) cases; findings were non-specific in 11 cases and a normal anogenital status was found in 25 cases. The alleged abuse of 34 of the 77 (44%) girls was tried in court. One suspect was acquitted, 32 men were convicted of the abuse of 33 girls. Eleven perpetrators admitted abuse, and their histories were in concordance with the abuse alleged by the victims, as well as with the physical findings.


A medicolegal diagnosis of alleged non-acute cases of sexual abuse relies on a detailed history. Adolescent girls alleging abuse may exhibit signs of admittedly self-inflicted extragenital injury. Our findings confirm that non-penetrative sexual acts leave no lasting genital signs, but that repeated abusive genital penetration significantly more often than non-penetrative abuse leaves deep posterior hymenal clefts and/or vestibular scarring, and a hymenal opening allowing examination with 17-25 mm specula also in girls without experience of voluntary intercourse. In cases with a confessing perpetrator, no discordance was found between the history of the victim, medicolegal conclusion and the history of the perpetrator.

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