Prevalence of potential sexual abuse in adolescents and young adults and feasibility of an assessment and management plan used in three research projects.

Morrow C, Thomas R, Ding L, Kahn JA
Res Nurs Health 41 166-172 01/01/2018


The aims of this study were to examine the feasibility of a protocol to assess for assessment and response to potential sexual abuse (defined as self-report of sexual initiation before age 13) among adolescent and young adult research participants in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination screening; determine the proportion of participants whose survey responses indicated potential sexual abuse and assess whether age, gender, race, and recruitment site were associated with potential abuse. We pooled data from three cross-sectional studies of 13-26 year-old women and men (N = 1541) recruited at a Teen Health Center (THC) and Health Department (HD). Using written and electronic documentation, we demonstrated feasibility by the following outcomes: 100% of participants who indicated early sexual initiation were interviewed by the research staff, 100% of assessments were disclosed to participants' primary care clinicians, and no adverse consequences of the interviews or referrals occurred. Potential sexual abuse was identified in 95 participants (6.2%). In multivariable logistic regression, the following factors were independently associated with potential abuse: race (Black vs. White, odds ratio [OR] = 3.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.6-5.7; other race vs. White, OR = 2.6, 95%CI = 1.0-6.5); and recruitment site (HD vs. THC, OR = 2.1, 95%CI = 1.4-3.3). The standardized protocol to identify, assess and refer youth who may have been sexually abused was feasible and can enable researchers to ensure the safety of study participants.

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