Sexual Assault and Abuse of Minors
by Nancy Young, director of Risk Management, Crozer-Chester Medical Center
The National Victim Center reports that over 700,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted annually. Of this number, 61 percent are under the age of 18. Pennsylvania statistics indicate that 1,471 female juveniles reported incidents of forcible rape in 2002.
Sexual violence can be any act, both verbal and physical, which breaks a person’s trust or safety and is sexual in nature. Adolescent women are at a higher risk for sexual violence than any other age group. In this age group, a large number of date/acquaintance rapes occur. A sexual assault perpetrated by someone known to the victim such as a friend, an employer, a date, or someone the victim recently met, is categorized as an acquaintance rape. Along with acquaintance rape, a greater number of adolescents are victims of sexual abuse and incest. Instances in which the perpetrator is related to the victim are generally classified as incest. The reporting mechanisms for date/acquaintance rape and rape by a family member are two different scenarios.
Younger victims often do not volunteer information about a history of sexual abuse or assault because they feel shame and personal responsibility. Teens especially may be reluctant to seek immediate medical attention, particularly if they know the perpetrator. The first time a teen may disclose that she was sexually assaulted may be when she is seen in the physician’s office and learns that she has a sexually transmitted disease or discovers that she is pregnant. Upon questioning, she may divulge that she was raped and knows the perpetrator. In this scenario where the perpetrator is a parent, caretaker, household member or paramour of the parent, reporting is mandated. If you have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, a report should be made immediately by telephone to CHILDLINE at 1-800-932-0313. Within 48 hours of the oral report, a written report must be made to the appropriate county child protective services agency.
The report of suspected child abuse is filed with the local county children and youth agency which must begin an investigation within 24-hours of the report. If the report is determined to be a valid instance of child abuse, the agency must arrange for or provide the services that are needed to prevent further mistreatment of the child and attempt to preserve the family unit.
Mandated reporters, who participate in good faith in making a report, cooperating with an investigation, and testifying in a proceeding arising out of an instance of suspected child abuse, have immunity from civil and criminal liability. Failing to report a case of suspected child abuse, however, exposes you to legal sanctions.
In the scenario where suspected sexual abuse does not involve a household or immediate family member, the appropriate local police department should be notified. When an allegation is made by someone under the age of 16, that a person four or more years older had sexual relations with them, and the individuals are not married to each other, the crime of Statutory sexual assault is committed. Whether or not the act was consensual is not an issue. Given the broad definition of child abuse, in such cases, CHILDLINE should also be called. A person who makes a report to the police is immune from civil or criminal liability on account of the report, unless the person acted in bad faith or with a malicious purpose.
 Facts on Sexual Assault. New Beginnings (On-line), 1995. Available: http://www.newbeginningsnh.org
 Statistics. Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. (On-line), 2002. Available: http://www.pcar.org/
 Teen Sexual Assault and Abuse Information Sheets. WCASA. (On-line) 1997. Available: http://www.danenet.wicip.org
 23Pa.C.S.A.§ 6311©; 55 Pa. Code § 3490.13(a)
 23Pa.C.S.A.§ 6318(a)