Open Access Research article

Time to presentation, pattern and immediate health effects of alleged child sexual abuse at two tertiary hospitals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Timketa Girgira1, Birkneh Tilahun2* and Tigist Bacha3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Addis Ababa University, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2 Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Hawassa University, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, P.O. Box 1560, Hawassa, Ethiopia

3 Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Addis Ababa University, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:92  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-92

Published: 30 January 2014



Children are vulnerable to abuse and violence because their level of development makes them unable to protect themselves. Such adversities during early childhood may have a negative impact on the future lives of the victims.

This study was done to determine the delay to hospital presentation, clinical manifestations and immediate health effects of child sexual abuse in two tertiary care hospitals in Ethiopia.


We reviewed records of all cases of child sexual and physical abuse between January 2011 and December 2012. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models were used to test the presence and strength of association between time to reporting to hospital and, age and sex of the victim, place of residence and relation of the victim to the perpetrator. Odds ratio and 95% confidence intervals were generated. Significance was taken as p-value < 0.05.


During the study period, we identified records of 275 children who were seen for alleged physical and sexual abuse; they accounted for 0.6% of the outpatient department (OPD) visits. The majority of the victims were cases of sexual abuse (97.3%) and most of them were female (75.7%). The mean age of the victims was 9.5 years (standard deviation (SD) = 4.2 years). The majority of the abusers were known to the victim (73.0%) and male (98.8%). Neighbors (38.95%), teachers (7.9%) and relatives (13.4%) were the most commonly reported perpetrators. The median length of time taken to present to hospital after the abuse incident was 4 days (range = 2 hours to 3 years). Male victims were 2.4 times more likely to have a delay of greater than one week to present to hospital (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR), 2.40; 95% Confidence interval (CI), 1.34-4.31; P-value = 0.002). Sexual abuse was associated with various immediate health effects, for example, hymenal tear, urinary tract infection and, perineal laceration or tear.


Presentation for care was often delayed. Male sex was independently associated with a delayed presentation to care. We recommend that further studies are carried out to identify the reasons for delay to reporting and design mechanisms to address them.

Child abuse; Time to reporting; Immediate health effects; Ethiopia