To describe the implementation of medical examination and forensic analysis in the police investigation of sexual assaults, and compare police-reported cases with and without medico-legal examination of the victim.
A retrospective study of all police-reported sexual assaults against women in the county of Sør-Trøndelag, Norway, January 1997-June 2003. Information from the police files was merged with information from the only specialized health care system in the region, the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), St. Olav's Hospital, Trondheim.
Of the 185 police-reported cases identified, 101 (55%) involved women examined at the SACC. A medical report was requested in 83% of the latter, while forensic analyses of biological samples from the victim's body were performed in a mere 29%. In cases without examination at the SACC, there was more likely assault outside the city, over one week's delay between the assault and police-reporting, over one assault reported, and assault coded as attempted rape, while vaginal penetration was less likely. Adjusting for delay of reporting, geographical closeness to health care remained predictive of medical examination. Only 16% of the cases were prosecuted.
The police requested a medical report in most cases where the victim had undergone examination, while a minority of collected biological samples was analyzed. Consequently, a vigilant and thorough documentation of mental state, physical injuries and history of assault should be emphasized.