Stigmatization of Overweight and Obese Women During Forensic Examinations

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Abstract

Stigma and discrimination toward overweight and obese people pose consequences to their psychological and physical health. In the United States, overweight and obesity and affects over 34% of the population. This frequently ignored public health issue often sees overweight and obese individuals blamed for their weight, thereby justifying the bias. During a post-sexual-assault examination, sexual assault nurse examiners and other forensic examiners must be cognizant of the specific issues and challenges related to the care of these victims. Forensic nurses may need to refine their techniques such as positioning overweight and obese patients on an appropriate-sized table, obtaining equipment for better visualization, and requiring assistance during the examination (e.g., lifting the victim's pendulous skin folds for assessment and evidence collection). Moreover, they may need to recognize and reflect on their own weight related biases. Addressing these important issues may lead to decreasing stigmatization during examinations, thereby providing quality care to victims of sexual assault, regardless of their weight.

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