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Responding to children and adolescent who have been sexually abused: WHO clinical guidelines
Health care providers are often the first point of call for distressed parents or adolescents. They need to know how to identify such abuse and provide an empathetic and supportive response to children and adolescents when they disclose, or show signs of, abuse. Health care providers can also help to connect survivors of abuse to other services that they may need through referrals.
In recognition of this WHO has published new evidence-based guidelines to help front-line health workers respond to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused.
The new guidelines recommend that health care providers:
- Provide first line support that is child or adolescent-centred and gender sensitive in response to disclosure of sexual abuse.
- Minimize additional trauma and distress while taking medical history, conducting the examination and documenting the findings.
- Offer post-rape care that includes HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and adherence support, emergency contraception, STI presumptive treatment where testing is not feasible and Hepatitis B and HPV vaccinations as per national guidance.
- Consider cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus to those who have PTSD symptoms and diagnosis, and where safe and appropriate to do so, involve at least one non-offending caregiver.
- Where required to report child sexual abuse to designated authorities, health care providers should inform the child or adolescent and their non-offending caregivers about the obligation to report the abuse and the limits of confidentiality before interviewing them