Danish study shows the importance of a medical evaluation for every child who attends Barnahus
Jun 28, 2022

During a 2-year pilot, 100% of children (205 in total) who were suspected of experiencing violence in close relationships and who were referred to Barnahus via the Copenhagen police for an audio-visually recorded investigative interview were systematically offered a forensic medical screening. This is a full forensic medical evaluation combined with a health and wellbeing screening, which results in a short report with an option to order a complete forensic report.

Key findings:

  • About half of children examined had signs of violence and/or illness
  • More than 25% of children examined had findings that could support suspicions of violence in close relationships
  • More than 25% of children examined needed follow-up for their physical or mental health
  • Fewer than 5% of parents refused to consent
  • Children do not experience the examination as a new assault. Rather, they feel taken seriously, and that their health and wellbeing is important. Most report they had a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ experience
  • Professionals did not find the approach too time consuming
  • Police say it helped to identify cases that otherwise would probably not have been investigated further due to the child’s explanation, the available evidence, and other doubts
  • The pilot led to the wellbeing and health perspective being included in the assessment of the child to a greater extent than previously, when only very few children were offered a medical examination
  • Providing systematic forensic medical screenings for very young children age 0 to 4, who often are not interviewed, helps to improve equity in Barnahus services for this group

The report is now available in English as well as the original in Danish. See also a video presentation of the project with English subtitles.

The report is published by Børnehus Hovedstaden. It is the result of project that was a collaboration between Børnehus Hovedstaden, the Section for Child Abuse at the Copenhagen Police and the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

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