Emergency room visits from sexual assault rose 1,533% in 13 years, 'landmark study' finds

Photo by paulbr75/Pixabay
Photo by paulbr75/Pixabay

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Emergency room visits by adult victims of sexual assault rose 1,533% in the 13 years between 2006 and 2019, according to researchers in a new report that has already been described as a "landmark study" on sexual violence.

The number of emergency room visits of sexual assault survivors was just 3,600 in 2006 but grew to 55,200 by 2019, which the researchers attributed to possible combination of factors including the occurrence of more sexual assault and increased awareness spurred by movements such as #MeToo.


Keme Carter, an emergency physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, called the research a "landmark study" in comments to NBC News.

The study, published Thursday in JAMA Network Open, used data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, which tracks emergency department visits to analyze trends in the reporting of sexual assaults.

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The team, led by researchers with the University of Michigan, noted that the number of hospital admission rates after such visits declined from 12.6% to just 4.3% by 2019 while the rate of emergency room visits continues to outpace the number of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement.


"Sexual assault is a disturbing and prevalent issue in the US, with a new assault occurring every 68 seconds," the study reads.

"Emergency departments have long been viewed as the primary point of care for SA survivors seeking medical services because of the acute nature of these traumas and the stigma surrounding other care avenues."

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The researchers found that most of such emergency room visits were made by women, as many as 96.1% in 2007, but that men make up a growing percentage of sexual assault victims seeking health care. The percentage of such visits rose from 3.9% in 2007 to 8.5% in 2019.

"As few as 21% of survivors seek medical care after SA,55 meaning that the survivors captured in this study represent a fraction of total SA-related care needs," the study concluded.

"Our finding that most [sexual assault emergency department] visits are by young, female, and low-income survivors can inform policy changes to better support these individuals.

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"In addition, given that 95% of survivors are ultimately discharged from the [emergency department] without admission, we should consider developing outpatient or longitudinal care settings that might better serve all survivors."

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