When suspicions of sexual abuse arise, the need for proper, specialized medical treatment is often an after thought. Far too frequently, the child's health is placed on the back-burner, while the primary focus is placed on the investigative process. Unfortunately, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs are often forgotten by well-meaning law enforcement and child welfare investigators. While criminal and child welfare investigations are critical to public safety, the child's health and safety are paramount in these situations. Too many well-meaning investigators fail to see the importance of the specialized medical-forensic evaluation if they believe no injuries will be discovered or there is nothing to place in a "rape kit" to send to the crime lab. This could not be further from the truth. Properly trained pediatric medical-forensic providers have specialized training and equipment to accurately identify signs of old or healing genital trauma and sexually transmitted infections (STI's) in children and adolescents with no symptoms of such an infection, months and even years after the incident. At The Cottage, we provide specialized medical-forensic evaluations FREE of charge to any suspected child or adolescent victim of sexual violence in the state; however, we primarily serve the children residing in the 6 counties of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit: Bryan, Evans, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, and Tattnall counties. The latest statistical data related to STI's and HIV right here in our local service area may shock most parents and investigators:
Far too often, child and adolescent disclosures during the forensic interview are often erroneously relied upon when making the determination whether or not the child should be referred for a specialized medical-forensic examination. This is a major omission in the investigative process of child and adolescent sexual abuse cases. Documentation of the physical examination and STI testing are all critical pieces of evidence that can be utilized to identify suspected perpetrators or exonerate them, and investigations without these key pieces of evidence are incomplete. More importantly, unidentified and untreated STI's, including HIV, can have long-term, devastating consequences.
Despite what most parents, children, adolescents, and investigators may believe, the medical-forensic examination, when conducted by an appropriately trained pediatric medical-forensic provider, is not painful, invasive, or traumatizing to the patient. Do not allow this perception to deter you from seeking the proper specialized medical-forensic care for the suspected child victim of sexual abuse.
At The Cottage, we are available to you 24/7, and our services are provided FREE of charge to patients, their families, and any referring agencies that may be involved. No referral is needed by the child's primary care provider, and no approval from law enforcement or any other investigative agency is necessary or required. If you are a parent and your child or adolescent was a suspected victim of sexual abuse and was not referred to The Cottage by the investigating agency, contact us immediately. We will provide the individualized, trauma-informed, medical care your child may need FREE of charge to you. Our staff is also available to assist you with filing for any benefits you may be eligible for under the state crime victim's compensation program. Those benefits may financially enable you to seek much needed additional care and services you feel you otherwise would not be able to afford.
Finally, please remember that as the child's parent or guardian, you have a choice about who provides care to your child. If the medical-forensic evaluation that was offered by the investigating or any other agency involved in the process required you to travel further than our facility and/or simply was not an accessible option, please contact us. Our doctoral-prepared, pediatric medical-forensic examiners are highly experienced, board certified, independent practitioners who are ready and willing to provide the specialized care your child deserves and so desperately needs right here in their own community, FREE of charge.