By Linda Carroll
(Reuters Health) – The rate at which children are being admitted to US emergency departments for sexual abuse has nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, according to a new study.
Data from emergency departments across the country show that admission of young people under 18 by ED for sexual abuse has increased from just under six per 100,000 children to nearly 12 per 100,000, report researchers at JAMA Pediatrics.
It's not clear why the numbers are increasing, said study leader Jesse Helton of the School of Social Work at the University of St. Louis, Missouri.
"The data we use is very limited in that regard," Helton said in an email. But "we can speculate. Particularly in rural areas or in communities without a specialized pediatrician or Child Protection Center (emergency rooms), more and more can be relied upon to coordinate survivors' medical care and assist in forensic work in protective services. to the child and in the courts. "
The increase may also be related to increased human trafficking, he said.
Helton and colleagues analyzed the date of the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample of the Health Care Cost and Utilization Project, the largest database of public payers for emergency department visits.
Focusing on data from 2010 to 2016, the researchers determined that about 190 million children were admitted to ED in the US during those seven years. Of the 46,993 admitted for confirmed sexual abuse, 85.14% were girls and 44.75% were between 12 and 17 years old.
The number of emergency hospitalizations for child sexual abuse increased from 5,138 in 2010 to 8,818 in 2016, meaning that hospitalizations increased from 6.93 per 100,000 children in 2010 to 11.97 per 100,000 in 2016.
Numbers can easily be underestimated.
"There were confirmed cases of child sexual abuse, no allegations or suspicious cases," said Helton. "In general, cases of child sexual abuse are underreported in the general population."
The new findings "highlight the fact that this is a continuing and important public health problem in our country," said Dr. C. Anthoney Lim, director of emergency pediatric medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York.
Lim agreed that the new findings could be underestimated. "They sought diagnostic codes for child sexual abuse that have been confirmed, while in practice many patients coming to the emergency room with abuse are often coded as suspicious and unconfirmed," said Lim. "So they may actually be missing a number. significant ".
In addition, by limiting their search to under-18s, they may be missing out on many who are victims of sex trafficking, said Lim.
As for the increase in the number of children admitted to the PS due to sexual abuse, Lim suspects this may be at least in part due to increased public awareness.
"I think this has to do with raising awareness and education among providers as well as among the children themselves," said Lim.
Lim hopes the new findings will spark more interest in this subject. "It's a study-generating hypothesis that, with luck, will lead to more studies," he said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2WRJFAJ JAMA Pediatrics, online November 4, 2019.