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More than 52,000 sexual assault cases treated in Ontario hospitals during 15-year period


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 today in the American Journal of Public Health, examined sexual assault cases treated in Ontario hospitals from 2002 to 2016. The researchers used five different healthcare 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.

The study found approximately 90 per cent of sexual assault cases treated in Ontario hospitals were among females, with the highest rates observed between the ages of 15 to 19 years (187 per 100,000). The researchers identified more than 7,000 cases of sexual assault among males, with the highest rates seen in male children 0 to 4 years (41 per 100,000) and 5 to 9 years (29 per 100,000).

“Boys and men are often overlooked in violence prevention and care programs and there is very little known about sexual assault in this population,” says Muldoon.

The researchers add that sexual assault is often a stigmatizing experience that has historically been under-reported and under-estimated.  “It’s important to highlight that we identified only those cases that are documented in hospital. The majority of sexual assault survivors never access care in the hospital setting,” says Muldoon.

Author block: Katherine A. Muldoon, Glenys Smith, Robert Talarico, Melissa Heimerl, Cheynne McLean, Kari Sampsel and Douglas G. Manuel.

The study “A 15-year population-based investigation of sexual assault cases across the province of Ontario, Canada, 2002-2016,” is published in the July 18th issue of American Journal of Public Health.

*If you or a loved one has been affected by sexual violence, resources can be found here. To find a sexual assault centre near you, follow this link.*

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

About The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion.
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See www.ohri.ca for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

About the University of Ottawa: —A crossroads of cultures and ideas
The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe. www.uottawa.ca

For more information, please contact:

Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

Jenn Ganton
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73325
Cell: 613-614-5253
[email protected]

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