VACS Process Guide for Countries

What to know

This serves as a helpful guide for countries and Together for Girls partners interested in conducting a successful VACS and supporting data-informed actions to reduce violence against children and youth.

The VACS process starts with country engagement

Individual countries lead their own VACS, which national governments typically request through a Together for Girls partner within the country. Having strong engagement from the beginning leads to stronger support and commitment to action throughout the VACS process. This makes it easier for countries to use VACS data to develop policies and strategies to prevent and respond to violence.

The national government may create a Multi-Sector Task Force or Steering Committee early on. They have an important role in supporting the national government during the VACS process:

  • Overseeing VACS planning.
  • Reviewing and adapting the survey protocol.
  • Reporting on VACS progress.
  • Providing input to ongoing data analysis.
  • Interpreting VACS data to develop strategies for prevention and response.

CDC supports countries during the VACS process

Through the Together for Girls partnership, CDC provides technical assistance to help countries prepare and implement VACS and respond to the survey results.

CDC's role also includes activities such as:

  • Protocol development.
  • Ethics approval.
  • Training.
  • Pilot testing.
  • Data collection.
  • Data Analysis.

What countries need for a successful VACS

A successful VACS depends on the strong engagement of partners within the country, as well as a number of key factors that need to be in place.

Programmatic Response

  • VACS data can influence a country's policies, help create programs for prevention and response, and enable different sectors, such as education, health, and justice, to make better action plans.

Ethical Standards

  • Applying high ethical standards protects and supports the wellbeing of children and young adults who have experienced or are experiencing violence.
  • Ensures participants are able to request counseling services and receive help throughout the VACS process.

Process Sustainability

  • National governments, organizations and partners need to be able to engage in the VACS process early on, take ownership of the survey, study protocol and results, and commit to action.

Survey Support

  • Having more than one Together for Girls partner within the country that can support VACS implementation and be involved with fieldwork is essential.

Funding Availability

  • Countries will need enough funding to have resources (staff, supplies, etc.) available throughout the VACS process and to support CDC technical assistance during the implementation stage.

Partner Support

  • National governments and partners must express their support for action in response to survey findings. Action steps include the ability to gather resources and to put funding in place for long-term programs and services in response to the VACS.

In-Country Capacity

  • Countries must be able to protect VACS participants by maintaining ethical standards, ensuring participant confidentiality, and providing access to counseling services to those who need support.

Preparing for VACS: ethical review and protections

VACS follows World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on ethics and safety in studies of violence against women. When national governments prepare for the VACS, the survey protocol, questionnaire, and response plan can be adapted to meet their country's specific needs.

Survey Protocol

The survey protocol outlines the VACS process, sampling design, sample selection, and ensures survey questions are culturally relevant and suitable for the country. Countries can adapt the core VACS protocol and questionnaire to fit their needs while still keeping survey methods and data definitions consistent. This allows VACS findings to be comparable across countries.


The survey questions cover difficult topics, and some participants may have a strong emotional response when they remember painful experiences. Countries will need to develop a response plan and be able to provide referrals and services to participants who request them.

Response Plan

The response plan and referral protocol outline the process for supporting participants who need assistance during or after the survey. All participants receive a list of free programs and support services offered based on the country's response plan.

Implementing VACS: survey pilot testing and data collection

Implementing VACS is one step in a larger, ongoing process to strengthen violence prevention and response efforts. During the engagement stage, the national government identifies a national implementing partner that can carry out a national survey. They will also work through logistical concerns (such as transport and availability of supplies) before sending interviewers out to the field.

Field Test

Interviewers will conduct a field test of the survey procedures ahead of the VACS. The field test helps interviewers evaluate the field procedures, questionnaire administration, and the interview and response plans.

Data Collection

Data collection begins after the field test. This takes about 8–12 weeks. In most countries, male interviewers conduct interviews with male participants, and female interviewers conduct interviews with female participants.

VACS uses a “split sample” approach. Interviewers survey male and female participants in different communities to protect confidentiality and eliminates the chance that a perpetrator of sexual violence would harm the victim who lives in the same community.

Responding to VACS: data to action and VACS report launch

Response is the most important phase of the VACS. After the data is collected and analyzed, countries have valuable information that can be used to create violence prevention and response policies and programs. This continues even after the survey ends.

The response has two main components:

  • Conducting the data to action process.
  • Launching a report of VACS results.

Establishing national priorities with data to action

The data to action process highlights areas of concern based on VACS data. This allows countries to develop strategies based on the INSPIRE Technical Package. The goal is to strengthen a country's ability to develop a comprehensive, coordinated plan to end violence against children and youth.

One key milestone of the data to action process is a data to action workshop led by the national government with assistance from:

  • Members of the multi-sector task force or steering committee.
  • In-country partners (such as coordinating, implementing, and lead statistical agencies).
  • U.S. Government partners.
  • CDC.

The VACS data to action workshop connect findings from the VACS with evidence-based policies and programs to prevent and respond to violence. This also forms the basis for a national action plan, which lists a country's priorities for action steps. The workshop usually takes place between when initial VACS findings are released and the launch of the final VACS report.

In many countries, the national action plan is released with the final VACS results. Each country's response is unique, but it is important for their efforts to include tracking implementation outcomes through monitoring and evaluation. CDC provides data monitoring tools to support the program and policy response after VACS implementation.

Launching the VACS Report

Launching a VACS report is an exciting and significant milestone in the VACS process. The release of the final report and national action plan brings increased attention to violence against children and youth. This also allows national governments to create solutions tailored to their country's challenges using programs like health, social welfare, justice and education. This collaboration directly supports Together for Girls' model of building on existing platforms to prevent violence. Once the national government officially launches the final VACS report, the results will be publicly available on the Together for Girls website.

The final VACS report is not the end goal of the VACS. The intent of making the data available to the public is to strengthen support for coordinated action throughout the country during the response. As the response process continues, the effort to monitor and evaluate outcomes after also continues.

VACS generates important data that can influence a country's policies and programs. By protecting their children and youth, their families, and the communities in which they live, national governments create solutions to end violence.