Preparing for my child's medical exam after abuse

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice for parents on how to prepare and what to expect during your child's medical exam after he or she has been abused
Preparing For Your Child's Medical Exam After Abuse
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Preparing for my child's medical exam after abuse

Having to go through evaluation for sexual abuse, it can be very anxiety provoking. Both for the parent and for the child. With the parent, I would advise that if you have the opportunity to talk to the physician or at least the team that's going to be doing the evaluation first, so they can explain to you what the procedure will be. To put you at ease, so that you know exactly what's going to happen. With getting your child prepared, I do not suggest lying to your child or saying that they're going to the doctor for some other reason. But, just letting them know, if they had some complaints down there, or it's been hurting down there, or there's something that's bothering them, that they are going to a doctor who specializes in this area. Who sees all kinds of children for various kinds of problems, and, that are just going to take a look to make sure that everything is okay. How you prepare your child is actually very important. When I talk to families about, as well as professionals, when they're having a child prepared for this kind of evaluation, is being honest with the child. But, also using phrases that won't provoke more anxiety. So, as an example, if you say "I'm really sorry, I don't want you to have this exam", or "Mommy doesn't really want to take you there and I'm really sorry. And I hope that it's okay." Of course, that's going to raise more anxiety in a child. But, being reassuring, being supporting, "Yes, we are going to go to the doctor. We are going to see a doctor who specializes in all kinds of areas that children has problems with. We just want to make sure that everything is okay." So, keeping a positive as much as you can. Reassuring the child as much as you can. And making sure that the child knows you are there and that you are being a supportive parent.

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice for parents on how to prepare and what to expect during your child's medical exam after he or she has been abused


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Karen Kay Imagawa, MD

Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD: Director, Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Director, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program, Division of General Pediatrics; Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, is also the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and is a full-time attending within the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). She received her medical degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is board certified in General Pediatrics, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, and Child Abuse Pediatrics.  Dr. Imagawa has made significant contributions to program development at CHLA: She is currently the Director of the Joint General Pediatrics – USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program ,expanding the program to its current position with the largest number of board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatricians (7) in a Southern California program, and was integral in establishing the ACGME accredited Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship program at CHLA . Dr. Imagawa is also one of the founders and the Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center at CHLA, a multifaceted interdisciplinary child protection center involving evaluation, treatment, prevention, education and research in the field of child maltreatment.  Dr. Imagawa is a court appointed expert (730 paneled expert in both Criminal and Dependency Court) in the field of child abuse, and was actively involved in the development of the Foster Care Hub at CHLA, one of seven designated Hubs in Los Angeles County that were initially established to provide forensic, medical, and mental health screenings for newly detained children entering the foster care system.  She previously served on the advisory group for The California Medical Training Centers formulating standardized training in child abuse, and collaborated on a task force to develop standards at the state level for mental health care for child victims of trauma. She is a medical consultant for the Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN – the official county agency which coordinates the development of services for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect), having participated in various medical task forces establishing protocols and best practice standards for the evaluation and treatment of suspected victims of child abuse, included those with developmental disabilities. Dr. Imagawa’s strength as a clinical educator is also seen in her dedication to education and training. She has been invited to participate in numerous speaking engagements, as well as requests from the media and entertainment industry, involving a variety of topics in the fields of child abuse and/or developmental-behavioral pediatrics. 

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