Clinicians, however, continue to refer to changes in the hymen to assess for a history of consensual or nonconsensual sexual intercourse. We reviewed published evidence to dispel commonly held myths about the hymen and its morphology, function, and use as evidence in cases of sexual violence. An examination of the hymen is not an accurate or reliable test of a previous history of sexual activity, including sexual assault. We call on clinicians to consider the low predictive value of a hymen examination and to: 1 avoid relying solely on the status of the hymen in sexual assault examinations and reporting; 2 help raise awareness of this issue among their peers and counterparts in law enforcement and the judicial system; and 3 promote fact-based discussions about the limitations of hymenal examinations as part of clinical education for all specialties that address the sexual or reproductive health of women and girls. The online version of this article In some settings, clinicians who evaluate women and girls suspected of being victims of sexual assault, or suspected of having engaged in intercourse with or without consent , rely on an examination of the hymen for their assessments. The hymen is a small membranous tissue outside of the vaginal canal that has no known biological function. We reviewed published studies about the hymen to help guide clinicians in evaluating whether or not a hymen examination would be a valuable practice. We concluded that an examination of the hymen is not an accurate or reliable test of sexual activity, including sexual assault, except in very specific situations. We recommend that clinicians take into consideration that a hymen examination does not generally offer a high degree of certainty about sexual activity, with or without consent.
Hymens can come in different shapes. The most common hymen in young women is shaped like a half moon. This shape allows menstrual blood to flow out of the vagina. Imperforate hymen : An imperforate hymen can sometimes be diagnosed at birth.
Most females are born with a hymen. A hymen is a thin membrane that stretches across the vagina. It generally has a ring-like appearance with a small opening. Most girls have a small crescent- or donut-shaped opening in their hymen.
It was covered with large tiles probably made of foam or cork-board. Each tile was large and rectangular, an off-white color flecked with grey. From the age of six to 13, Northcote spent a long time staring at it. Once a year, for the longest two minutes in history, she would force herself to concentrate on those tiles right after her doctor repeated the familiar phrase:. Thirteen of those doctors complied. She never really knew why it happened — her doctor never told her.