According to University of Michigan (UM) researchers, there was a 15-fold increase in the number of sexual assault victims seeking treatment in U.S. emergency departments between 2006 and 2019.
According to data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, rapes and other types of sexual assault happen every 68 seconds in the country, and their number increased from 93,000 in 2006 to nearly 140,000 in 2019.
However, the study’s authors found that the rise in people seeking emergency medical attention following sexual violence is bigger than the rise in people going to the police for assistance.
The researchers also emphasised that while there are more sexual assaults, increased awareness and hospital coding changes are also contributing to the rise.
“Overall destigmatization has made patients feel safer going and seeking care,” said lead researcher Emily Vogt, a UM medical student. “Whether that’s due to the Me-Too movement or other social-political movements.”
It’s unclear if those who visit the ER following a sexual assault do not also contact the police, Vogt continued. Perhaps, she suggested, “they feel like that’s the only place they can go.”
Millions of visits to emergency rooms were used as the source of data for the study by Vogt and her colleagues. They discovered that more than 3,600 males and females between the ages of 18 and 65 required emergency care after being sexually assaulted in 2006. That number increased to over 55,300 in 2019. (RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network helpline, can be contacted for support.)
The research team led by Vogt discovered that those who sought ER care were disproportionately younger women and poorer.
Hospital admissions following a sexual assault did, however, reduce by 8%, from just under 13% to 4%, despite the growth in ER care. According to the results, the majority of patients (95%) were discharged.
According to Vogt, there may have been fewer vacant beds, fewer patients without insurance, or those who didn’t want to be admitted because of privacy concerns.
Patients that were admitted frequently had Medicaid and were less well off. In addition, victims between the ages of 46 and 65 had a higher hospitalisation rate than younger victims, presumably as a result of the assault exacerbating pre-existing conditions, according to Vogt.
Sexual assault accounted for less than 1% of visits to the emergency room during the same time period, which saw an overall rise in visits of 23%. However, the researchers found that hospital costs for visits related to sexual assault increased from $6 million in 2006 to over $233 million in 2019.
ERs can assist patients more effectively following a sexual assault, according to Vogt. “Even while it’s better than nowhere, the emergency room is probably not the best option. Better forms of outpatient care are required “She recommended.
Vogt predicts that the number of sexual assaults will keep rising. The COVID-19 epidemic, she continued, “which we already know from other studies has clearly raised incidence of sexual assault,” was not even taken into consideration.
Many of these patients are being discharged, and Vogt questioned whether they were receiving the proper care. We are aware that due to the trauma they have undergone, these patients are more likely to develop PTSD, substance misuse, and psychiatric issues.
The study was released online in JAMA Network Open on October 20.
Professor of paediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Miller. She stated that there is still a serious public health issue with sexual violence.
Inequities still exist regarding sexual violence reporting and care-seeking among groups, according to Miller. Miller, a co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, continued, “Our health system continues to underrecognize the health effects of sexual violence, particularly among survivors who are marginalised due to sexism, racism, heterosexism, and ableism.
Miller agreed that there is a rise in both knowledge of and prevalence of sexual violence.
“More persons seem to be seeking care as a result of numerous local campaigns to increase the visibility of sexual assault experiences. However, it does seem that throughout the epidemic, there was a spike in interpersonal violence on a global scale, including child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence “She spoke.
To enhance survivor-centered treatment in ERs, more is necessary. According to Miller, “we need to know how to best give meaningful care for survivors and to avoid contributing to the retraumatization of people who have survived an assault.”