In a sexual abuse examination for a female, swabs need to be taken from the cells in the vagina and cervix.

But it is important that people who bring children to a sexual abuse examination understand that it is not the same as an examination like they do when they go for a cervical smear.

In a prepubertal child, the cells on the vaginal wall and the cells on the cervix are exactly the same cells. In a prepubertal child, if we take a swab from the lower vagina and nothing grows, we can guarantee that there are no bacteria on the cervix either. Because of this, we don’t need to use a speculum for a child sexual abuse examination.

However, when you go through puberty, the cells on the cervix become different to the cells on the vaginal wall. In order to do a good health check, we need to take a swab from the vagina and the cervix. That is why in older adolescents and adults we need to use a speculum and we don’t need to with younger children.

Only the top part goes in and all the rest stays outside. The speculum is gently introduced and then opened slightly so that a swab can be taken from the cervix and the vaginal wall to check for bacteria.

If you are concerned about sexual abuse, feel you have been abused, need an examination, or would like to discuss your sexual health, it’s important to know that there is help available.


If you are in immediate danger call the police on 111.

You can call 111 from your cellphone even if you have no credit.

People can go to a sexual health clinic at whatever age and whether or not they have symptoms. If someone is under 16, the service is still confidential.

If you are worried that a child may have been sexually abused, call Oranga Tamariki or the Police or see a doctor.

Safe to Talk 24/7 Helpline:

For free, confidential information and support for people affected by sexual harm (sexual violence, rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse) you can contact Safe to Talk. This helpline is staffed by specialists trained in sexual harm support. They can help you access information, crisis counselling and support, and give you information about your local service providers. You can say as much or as little as you like and can remain anonymous. The helpline can be accessed free, across New Zealand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by phone, text, website, online chat and email on:

  • Freephone: 0800 044 334
  • Text: 4334
  • Website/online chat:
  • Email:

For counselling, medical help or advice:

Family Planning This New Zealand-based website provides up to date information on many sexual health-related topics and answers common questions about contraception.

Youthline Youthline provides a free, confidential and non-judgemental telephone counselling service, and other resources for young people and their families and whanau.

TOAH NNEST Te Ohaakii a Hine - National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH NNEST) is a network of specialist sexual violence response and prevention services across New Zealand.

Sex N Respect A website for youth about sexual violence and healthy relationships.

Women’s Refuge  website providing support and information which helps young people identify, escape and shelter from abuse, so you can be safe, love life and experience all the world has to offer – including real love.

Who Are You A website for people who are affected by sexual violence and where to get help.

Survivor A Christchurch-based group providing support and information to male survivors of sexual abuse.

SHINE Committed to making homes violent-free. Provides help and support for men who are violent and want to change their behaviour.

Family Violence It's Not OK Advice and information to stop violence in your family.

Find a local sexual health clinic near you

SAATS-Link A website to find your nearest sexual assault medical service.