FAQ: MEDICAL EXAMS
- When do children come to Ralston House for medical exams?
- Why is the medical exam important?
- Who will examine my child?
- Will the exam cause additional trauma to my child?
- Does the exam hurt?
During the Visit
Before the Visit
Q: When do children come to Ralston House for medical exams?
A: Ralston House provides medical exams for children when there are concerns about sexual abuse. Children are referred by social services or law enforcement.
Q: Why is the medical exam important?
A: Any child or adolescent who discloses sexual abuse needs a full medical exam. Regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred, it is important that child and adolescent victims are medically examined to ensure that they are healthy. Children who have been touched inappropriately often worry they are different from other children. The exam reassures them they are “normal” and that their body is or will be “just like all the other kids.” If there are signs of injury or infection, these will be treated and documented. Sometimes the medical professional may be able to collect evidence about abuse.
Q: Who will examine my child?
A: All exams are conducted by a doctor or nurse who has received special training in the medical examination of sexual abuse.
Q: Will the exam cause additional trauma to my child?
A: It is normal for your child to feel nervous about the exam. Our staff takes as much time as your child needs to help them through the exam. We explain each step of the check-up and find ways to put them at ease. These steps help to reduce your child’s stress.
Q: Does the exam hurt?
A: For most children the check-up does not hurt. No shots are given and no blood is drawn at Ralston House. Your child may feel worried or embarrassed about their check-up. Some children may also report mild discomfort when the doctor or nurse touches near their private parts.
During the Visit
Q: How long will the appointment last?
A: The medical examination, which includes your child’s check-up and talking with you before and after the exam, usually lasts about one to two hours.
Q: What happens during the visit?
A: After being escorted to a private and comfortable room, the nurse or doctor will meet with you to obtain a medical, family, developmental, behavioral, and social history of your child. A written consent for the physical exam, and specialized photography, will be obtained from the child’s parent or legal guardian. This will be done outside the presence of the child. This is a good time to ask questions that you may have. All questions are important.
The nurse or doctor may ask school-age children about worries or concerns they have about their bodies and if they know why they are here. (This information will help our nurse [or doctor] know what to look for and what tests may be needed to make sure the child is healthy.)
Then the nurse or doctor will do a head-to-toe exam, ending with the private parts. After the exam, the results will be shared with you and any questions or concerns you have will be discussed. Follow-up treatment may be necessary. It is very important that children and adolescents attend all scheduled follow-up appointments and it is the responsibility of parents/caregivers to ensure that children receive all recommended exams and treatments.
Q: What happens during the medical exam?
A: Your child will receive a thorough check-up that may include looking at their eyes, ears, mouth, listening to their heart and lungs, and checking their abdomen.
Examination of your child’s private parts involves looking at them to make sure they look normal. A special camera called a colposcope is used during the exam. This camera has a light and magnifies the area, allowing the doctor or nurse to see the child’s private parts more clearly. It never touches the child’s body, and is never felt by the child.
Teenage girls may need to have pelvic examinations involving insertion of an instrument called a speculum into the vagina. Younger girls do not receive a speculum exam.
Your child may also be tested for sexually transmitted infections. The test is done by touching your child’s throat and/or private parts with small cotton swabs.
A blood test may be needed to check for sexually transmitted infections and also for pregnancy in older girls. No blood is drawn at Ralston House, but we will assist you in getting any blood test that may be needed.
Q: May I stay with my child during the exam?
A: Many children want a parent or supportive adult with them for the exam. Other children prefer to do the exam on their own, with no parent in the room. We will ask children that are school age or older whom, if anyone, they would like to have with them for the exam. We ask that you respect your child’s wishes. Parents will have time to talk to the doctor or nurse privately after the exam.
Q: Will the exam show whther or not my child has been sexually abused?
A: Most children have no signs of injury to their genital or anal areas (private parts). This does not mean that sexual abuse did not happen. Children can be sexually abused without any injury to their bodies.
Before the Visit
Q: What should I tell my child beforehand?
A: Children are often less worried and more cooperative with exams when they have been prepared ahead of time for what they will be going through. It is important that children have been told about their visit so they know what to expect and have time to ask questions and talk about their feelings.
A few days before your appointment, explain to your child that they will be coming to Ralston House for a check-up. Tell your child that they will talk with a person who will ask questions about their body and their health, and a doctor or nurse will check their body, including their private parts, to make sure their whole body is healthy.
Be sure to tell your child there will be nothing painful (like shots), and the people at Ralston House will help them the whole time.
Q: Who should I call if I have questions?
A: You may call 720-898-6741, Monday through Friday from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and a medical professional or another staff member will be happy to talk to with you or return your call. Please let us know about any special needs your child has, or if there is information you feel would be helpful to us prior to your appointment.
Download the Body Facts brochure for more information on the importance of a medical exam and answers to commonly asked questions.