After anal rape or insertion of objects into the anus of either gender, pain and bleeding can occur for days or weeks. This often leads to constipation, which can be exacerbated by the poor diet in many places of detention. Gastrointestinal and urinary symptoms may also occur. Generally, visual inspection of the anogenital region is sufficient to find scarring and other lesions of the skin. The focus of the examination will depend on the history. In the acute phase, any examination beyond visual inspection may require local or general anaesthesia and should be performed by a specialist. For example, If an individual has persistent bleeding after an object was pushed through the anus, there may be scarring of the rectal mucosa and this can be looked for by proctoscopy. In the chronic phase, several symptoms may persist, and they should be investigated. There may be anal scars of unusual size or position, and these should be documented. Anal fissures may persist for many years, but it is normally impossible to differentiate between those caused by torture and those caused by other mechanisms. On examination of the anus, the following findings should be looked for and documented:
- Fissures tend to be non-specific findings as they can occur in a number of “normal” situations (constipation, poor hygiene). However, when seen in an acute situation (i.e. within 72 hours) fissures are more specific findings and can be considered evidence of penetration;
- Rectal tears with or without bleeding may be noted;
- Disruption of the rugal pattern may manifest as smooth fan-shaped scarring. When these scars are seen out of midline (i.e. not at 12 or 6 o’clock), they can be an indication of penetrating trauma;
- Skin tags, which can be the result of healing trauma;
- Purulent discharge from the anus. Cultures should be taken for gonorrhoea and chlamydia in all cases of alleged rectal penetration, regardless of whether a discharge is noted.
Following rape, the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases should be considered and local protocols followed. If there is any possibility of the perpetrator being prosecuted, air dried internal and external anal swabs can be taken up to five days after the rape, even if the survivor has defecated, and stored for DNA testing.