CHICAGO (AP) -- Citing disturbing statistics showing adolescents have the nation's highest rate of rape, the American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should ask patients at their annual checkups if they have ever been sexually assaulted.
Pediatricians may be the first professionals these victims encounter, and they are in a position to offer psychological support or refer such patients for counseling and other services, the academy said.
Nationwide data from 1998 show that 330,088 rapes and sexual assaults were reported in victims ages 12 and up. Rates for those ages 12 through 19 were the highest of all age groups and more than double those of victims 25 and older.
"It can be uncomfortable for some physicians to bring up sexually related questions," said Dr. David Kaplan, a Denver pediatrician and chairman of the academy's committee on adolescence. But he said including such questioning as part of regular checkups may help make it become more routine.
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