This third episode in the season of “Perspectives on At-Home Sexual Assault Kits” of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Dr. Toni Laskey - a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the division chief of the Center for Safe and Healthy Families at Primary Children’s Hospital - who discusses her work in child abuse pediatrics, her outlook on sexual assault response for victims under 18, and her perspective on at-home sexual assault kits.
She indicates that her sub-specialty of pediatrics is called “child abuse pediatrics,” which she defines as “an area of medicine that focuses on identifying child abuse and neglect, as well as recognizing things that look like that but aren’t actually.” She is part of a team that consists of healthcare providers and community partners that include representatives of law enforcement and child protective services. The team’s initial focus is on what has happened to the child to require treatment intervention. If abuse is determined to be the cause, the team develops a protective plan intended to prevent further injury or harm to the child. If the child is diagnosed as having a medical condition unrelated to any type of abuse, appropriate treatment is undertaken. Dr. Laskey notes that sex abuse is difficult to diagnose when a child is too young to verbalize what has happened but is behaving in ways that concern the caregiver. She also discusses other diagnostic issues in older children. She criticizes any consideration of a parent/caregiver using an at-home sexual assault kit with a child. She argues that only persons and teams trained and skilled in diagnosing and treating all aspects of the physical and psychological consequences of child sexual abuse and assault should conduct such an examination.