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The Latest From The Cottage


Three questions most frequently asked by parents, Department of Family and Children Service (DFCS) case workers, and law enforcement personnel about the medical-forensic examination of suspected child sexual abuse victims are:

1) Who needs one?

2) Why do they need one?

3) Is it painful or traumatizing?

These are very important questions that every parent, DFCS case worker, and law enforcement officer should know the answers to. In this blog post we will answer those questions and provide the evidence-based rationale to facilitate a better understanding of who should receive medical-forensic care to help ensure pediatric patients get the sub-specialty medical-forensic care to which they are entitled FREE of charge to them.


Suspected Child Sexual Abuse: No Disclosure Required

At The Cottage, our providers follow the nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines established for the care of abused children and adolescents. According to those guidelines, if there is any suspicion of sexual abuse, regardless of whether or not the child or adolescent has made a disclosure or denial related to the allegations or suspicions, he/she should have a medical-forensic examination performed by a properly trained, pediatric medical-forensic provider in a child-friendly environment. No disclosure is required. A mere suspicion of child sexual abuse should trigger a referral to The Cottage for evaluation. Suspected child sexual abuse victims are not required to have a referral from law enforcement, DFCS, nor their primary care provider to receive care at The Cottage. Parents can make a referral simply by calling The Cottage to make an appointment.

Contact Children

The clinical practice guidelines also recommend that all “contact children” also have a medical-forensic examination conducted by a properly trained pediatric medical-forensic provider. A “contact child” is any child or adolescent who has had any type of in-person contact with the alleged perpetrator. To ensure the safety, health, and well-being of these children and adolescents, they should all have specialized medical-forensic examinations in the absence of disclosure and even when they deny any history of abuse.

Children Residing in or Visiting Home with Child Pornography

The clinical practice guidelines also state ALL children and adolescents residing in a home or who frequently visits a home where child pornography was discovered/confiscated should be scheduled for a medical-forensic evaluation with a properly trained, pediatric medical-forensic provider. To ensure the health, safety, and well-being of these children and adolescents, they should all have specialized medical-forensic examinations in the absence of disclosure and even when they deny any history of abuse.


Pediatric medical-forensic providers have special equipment and specialized training to perform and document forensic-medical examinations on child and adolescent patients. The main objective of the medical-forensic evaluation is to ensure the health and well-being of the child or adolescent. First, it is not uncommon for children and adolescents to deny the abuse and subsequently test positive for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and/or have significant genital findings. Secondly, children sometimes fail to have any symptoms of STI’s, and if left untreated, could lead to serious infections and sterility in adulthood. Finally, children and adolescents who have been abused often worry that they are different from their peers. The medical-forensic exam will help to reassure your child or adolescent that everything is okay with their body, and it also provides an opportunity to document any significant physical and/or forensic findings, which may be utilized as evidence in investigations and legal proceedings to convict or exonerate the accused. Our providers at The Cottage are highly trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating medical conditions related to abuse and also distinguishing these conditions from those that mimic abuse.

Is It Traumatizing or Painful?

No part of the medical-forensic examination should cause your child or adolescent any pain, nor should it be traumatizing in any way. It is important for you and your child or adolescent to understand that the genital exam is very different and far less invasive than an adult pelvic exam, and it is absolutely in no way comparable to a “pap smear.” Vaginal speculums are not inserted inside children and young adolescents. Patients are never forced, and they are given as much time as necessary to feel comfortable with the exam. If your child or adolescent is very resistant, the exam can be rescheduled for a later date or not done at all. Most children and adolescents are cooperative when they are reassured that the decision to have the exam is ultimately their own. Please be assured that your child or adolescent will always be treated with dignity and respect.

Updated: Aug 28, 2018

Situated on Georgia's beautiful coast, The Cottage is a free-standing, community-based, medical-forensic clinic and victim service center located in Richmond Hill, Georgia, just south of Savannah. Serenity Hill, a not-for-profit victim service organization, has partnered with Ingram-Jones & Associates at The Cottage to provide high-quality, evidence-based, forensic-medical care and victim services. At The Cottage, we offer crisis intervention, sub-specialty medical-forensic care, and referral services to child, adolescent, and adult victims of abuse and their families. Our trauma-informed staff and volunteers are trained and experienced in providing a person-centered response to trauma and violence, and our medical providers are highly trained, experienced, and certified in the provision of sub-specialty, medical-forensic care to patients across the lifespan. The Cottage also offers internships to undergraduate and graduate-level students and serves as a training center for nursing and medical professionals across the country seeking clinical exposure to or sub-specialty in forensics.

At The Cottage, we believe in the healing power of a community-based response to trauma and violence...

Utilizing a community-based, collaborative, multidisciplinary response to trauma and violence, The Cottage is dedicated to promoting healing and improving the well-being of our clients and patients through the provision of high-quality, evidence-based, medical-forensic care based on a patient-centered, trauma-informed model of care.

Our Mission

To facilitate healing through a trauma-informed response to violence, utilizing community-based victim and medical-forensic services.

Our Vision

To become an indispensable community asset, improving lives and health outcomes through the provision of high-quality medical-forensic care, victim services, education, partnerships, and programs.

We are excited and honored to bring these much needed services to Richmond Hill and Bryan County, and we sincerely hope to bring hope, healing, and education to so many, even beyond our great city and county.

On behalf of "The Cottage,"

The Board of Directors for Serenity Hill, Inc.

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