Capturing sexual assault data: an information system designed by forensic clinicians and healthcare researchers
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Background: The Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) in Perth, Western Australia provides free 24-hour medical, forensic, and counseling services to persons aged over 13 years following sexual assault. Objective: The aim of this research was to design a data management system that maintains accurate quality information on all sexual assault cases referred to SARC, facilitating audit and peer-reviewed research. Methods: The work to develop SARC Medical Services Clinical Information System (SARC-MSCIS) took place during 2007–2009 as a collaboration between SARC and Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. Patient demographics, assault details, including injury documentation, and counseling sessions were identified as core data sections. A user authentication system was set up for data security. Data quality checks were incorporated to ensure high-quality data. Results: An SARC-MSCIS was developed containing three core data sections having 427 data elements to capture patient’s data. Development of the SARC-MSCIS has resulted in comprehensive capacity to support sexual assault research. Four additional projects are underway to explore both the public health and criminal justice considerations in responding to sexual violence. The data showed that 1,933 sexual assault episodes had occurred among 1881 patients between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2015. Sexual assault patients knew the assailant as a friend, carer, acquaintance, relative, partner, or ex-partner in 70% of cases, with 16% assailants being a stranger to the patient. Conclusion: This project has resulted in the development of a high-quality data management system to maintain information for medical and forensic services offered by SARC. This system has also proven to be a reliable resource enabling research in the area of sexual violence.
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