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October 25, 1985


JAMA. 1985;254(16):2343-2344. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360160175053

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Child sexual abuse is not new, but the attention being directed toward the problem is. Since early 1984, child sexual abuse has been under searchlights, with front page headlines in both the lay press and American Medical News (Oct 26, 1984; Jan 11, 1985; and March 22, 1985). The focus of the media coverage has shifted during the past year from criticism of physicians for not recognizing or reporting child sexual abuse to recognition that physicians have improved their ability to diagnose and to intervene in these cases.

Many reasons have been given for physicians' failure to detect child sexual abuse. These include the lack of "hard" physical evidence of abuse, a belief that sexual abuse does not exist, a fear of antagonizing parents, and an ignorance of how to obtain a detailed sexual history from a child. Since most parents accompany their children into the examining room, it is