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Child sexual assault reported to an acute sexual assault referral centre in London
  1. Louise Morgan1,
  2. Sophie Khadr1,2,
  3. Susan Bewley1,3
  1. 1The Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centre, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Population, Policy and Practice Programme, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  3. 3Women's Health Academic Centre, King's College London, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louise Morgan, The Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centre, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK; louisemorgan4{at}


Objective To describe demographic and assault-related characteristics of children attending an acute sexual assault referral centre in London within a week of alleged sexual assault.

Design Retrospective case note review of all children aged 12 years and under who reported between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2013.

Main outcome measures Age, sex, ethnicity, drugs and alcohol around the time of assault, nature of offence, relationship with perpetrator, additional violence, verbal threats, presence of injury.

Results 176 children attended; 80% were female. Perpetrators were known casually to the victim in almost half of cases (49%) and familial assault was reported in 55 cases (31%). 43% of boys and 28% of girls reported that the perpetrator was under the age of 16 years. Familial domestic violence was reported by 17%, and more boys (26%) than girls (14%) were reported to have a learning difficulty. Extragenital injury was found in 14% and anogenital injury in 17%.

Conclusions This study provides an important overview of young children referred for forensic medical examination in the week following an allegation of sexual assault. Rates of learning difficulty and domestic violence were relatively high, and alcohol and drug use was rare. A large number of alleged perpetrators were young themselves. Additional violence was not common, and rates of injury were low. There may be important differences in sexual offences against boys and girls. Further research is necessary, as is greater case identification and referral for services.

  • Child sexual assault
  • Paediatrics
  • Rape
  • Forensic examination

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  • Contributors LM: –conception, design, execution and analysis; LM and SB: drafting manuscript; LM, SK and SB: critical discussion, revision and final approval of the manuscript. All authors had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.