Approximately 3,500 survivors of sexual assault are treated in Ontario hospitals each year, according to a new study led by researchers at ICES, The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa. The researchers used a broad set of codes to help identify sexual assault cases that may have otherwise been missed when counting cases treated in Ontario hospitals.
The study published in the American Journal of Public Health, examined sexual assault cases treated in Ontario hospitals from 2002 to 2016. The researchers used five different health care databases housed at ICES and a combination of ICD-10 and OHIP billing codes used to document sexual assault in patient charts, including details on injuries, examinations, and factors that are suspicious of childhood sexual assault, like sexually transmitted infections in young children.
“By combining several codes, we were able to identify thousands of cases that would have been missed by standard documentation. The results show that even the most commonly used code, when examined independently, only captured 30 per cent of cases,” says Dr. Katherine Muldoon, lead author on the study, fellow at ICES and senior research associate at The Ottawa Hospital. “Our findings show that sexual assault is a pervasive problem. It was documented across all age groups and sexes and continued funding for prevention and care is critical.”
The researchers assert that accurate documentation of the burden of sexual violence is a prerequisite for better allocation of health resources and services for survivors. It is a public health imperative to have a strong system in place to document and monitor the prevalence of patterns of sexual assault in the population.
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