Injuries in Older Women who are Sexually Assaulted

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Sexual assault is considered a silent, violent epidemic against women of all ages. We have prospectively investigated genital and non-genital injuries in women examined by our Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program since 1998. Our hypothesis was that age is significantly and positively related to the number of genital and non-genital injuries in women following sexual assault. We studied 132 women over 39 years of age (mean age=50.58; SD 13.71; range 40-94) during the study period. Methods: We maintain a Sexual Assault Registry with documentation of injury on all individuals examined by the SANEs (N=1010). Following stratification by age (>39 years), we found 132 women in our sample with registry data. Vaginal penetration occurred in 75% of the assaults, anal penetration in 21%, and oral penetration in 24%. Women 40-49 (n=92) had a mean of 0.87 genital injuries. Women over 49 (n=40) had a mean of 2.28 genital injuries. Correlation between age and number of genital injuries was r = 0.296 (p < 0.001) and between age and non-genital injuries was -0.90 (ns). Black women (n=65) had significantly fewer genital injuries than White women (n=63) [t(116)=1.98, p=0.05)]. The labia minora was the most frequently injured genital location followed by the vagina and posterior fourchette. In our sample of women older than 39 years, older women who were sexually assaulted had higher rates of injury than younger women. Further work is needed to determine the reasons for the higher injury rates among older women and for ethnic and racial differences.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss the type and location of genital injuries caused by sexual assault
  • Analyze the relationship between age and injury caused by sexual assault
  • Assess the role of race in genital injuries caused by sexual assault


This poster was presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco CA, November 2003.