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Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions and answers are intended to anticipate interest in “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization in the United States—2011,” a report based on data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

General Questions

What is this report about?

This report examines sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence using 2011 data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). It describes the prevalence of these forms of violence; racial/ethnic variation in prevalence; how types of perpetrators vary by violence type; and the age at which victimization typically begins. For intimate partner violence, this report also examines a range of negative impacts experienced as a result of victimization, including the need for services.

What is the most important thing people need to know about this report?

Sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence remain significant public health issues, negatively impacting millions of women and men in the United States each year.

Why is this report important?

Understanding the magnitude, impact, and consequences of violence against women and men in the U.S. is an important first step in preventing violence. This information can be used to:

  • Inform policies and programs that are aimed at preventing these forms of violence
  • Establish priorities for preventing these forms of violence at the national, state, and local levels

Data collected in future years can also be used to examine trends in sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence and to evaluate and track the effectiveness of prevention efforts.

What are the key findings?

  • The majority of victims first experienced sexual violence, stalking, or intimate partner violence prior to age 25.
  • Women reported high rates of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence.
  • High rates of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization were reported by most racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • The vast majority of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victims knew their perpetrator.

What should people do with this information?

This information can shed light on sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner victimization experienced by male and female adults in the U.S. It will inform programs and policies aimed at implementing effective and appropriate strategies to prevent and respond to those affected by these forms of violence.

Can a researcher access the survey instrument and raw survey data?

The 2010 NISVS data are available at no cost. This information is archived in the National Archive of Criminal Justice at ICPSR. On that site, you will find the 2010 codebook, survey instrument, and documentation regarding the data. The raw data are in a restricted access database, which have specific requirements for obtaining them. Consult the Access Notes for instructions on how to request access to the raw data.

What is the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey?

NISVS is an ongoing, nationally representative survey that assesses sexual violence (SV), stalking, and intimate partner violence (IPV) among adult women and men in the U.S. The primary objectives of the survey are to describe:

  • The prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence
  • Who is most likely to experience these forms of violence
  • Patterns and impact of the violence experienced by specific perpetrators
  • Health consequences of these forms of violence

CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control developed NISVS with the help of experts and stakeholders from various organizations and representatives from other federal agencies and launched it in 2010. NISVS includes data from English- and Spanish-speaking female and male adults living in the U.S. and asks respondents about victimization over their lifetime and in the 12 months prior to taking the survey.

“Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization in the United States—2011” uses NISVS data to captures information on:

  • Sexual violence (SV) victimization by any perpetrator, including rape (completed, attempted, and alcohol/drug facilitated forced penetration), being made to penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences.
  • Stalking victimization, including through the use of newer technologies such as text messages, emails, monitoring devices (e.g., cameras and GPS, or global positioning devices), by perpetrators known and unknown to the victim.
  • Physical violence by an intimate partner, psychological aggression by an intimate partner, including information on expressive forms of aggression and coercive control, and control of reproductive or sexual health by an intimate partner. 

The data represent the national population.  Respondents were randomly selected through random-digit dialing of both landline and cell phone numbers.

How was the survey funded?

The 2011 data collection was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Will CDC issue a report like this every year?

CDC plans to issue reports on a recurring basis examining NISVS data.

Background and Methods

What was the survey methodology of NISVS?

NISVS is a national random digit dial (RDD) telephone survey of the non-institutionalized English and Spanish-speaking U.S. population aged 18 or older. NISVS uses a dual-frame sampling strategy that includes both landline and cell phones. NISVS makes use of the latest U.S. telephone user and usage information. This dual-frame sampling strategy is used in other RDD telephone surveys conducted by the CDC and by other government agencies. The survey was conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

What was the overall response rate to the survey of NISVS?

The overall weighted response rate for the 2011 data collection for NISVS was 33.1%, while the weighted cooperation rate was 83.5%. In short, once contact was made and eligibility determined, the majority of respondents chose to participate in the survey.

Interpreting NISVS Results

How does this information compare to the 2010 NISVS Summary Report?

The estimates in this report are generally similar to the estimates provided in the 2010 report.  More important than whether there are differences from year-to-year are whether we see trends in victimization.  Additional data years are needed before trends can be assessed.

What does this report say about the need for services as a result of IPV victimization?

The findings in this report suggest that many adults are in need of these types of services as a result of intimate partner violence victimization. Specifically, during their lifetime 6.9% of women and 1.6% of men needed medical services, 8.8% of women and 4.0% of men needed legal services, 3.6% of women and 1.0% of men needed housing services (e.g., shelters), and 3.3% of women needed victim advocate services.

Implications of Findings

What implications do these data have for prevention efforts and services?

We hope these data will be used as a call to action for practitioners, researchers, and policy makers to engage in an array of activities ranging from prevention and intervention to building the body of research. For example, the field can work to:

  • Implement prevention approaches that promote healthy, respectful relationships and address beliefs, attitudes, and messages that condone, encourage, or facilitate sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence. These results underscore the need to focus on reducing violence earlier in life with both boys and girls, with the ultimate goal of preventing all of these types of violence before they start.
  • Ensure appropriate response by improving access to services and resource, as well as providing survivors with a system of care for healing and preventing recurrence of victimization. An important aspect of public health practice is to tailor efforts to help those most at risk of victimization, and these data would suggest women in particular are heavily affected, as well as racial/ethnic minorities and younger populations. It’s important to address these disparities and provide needed services for victims, particularly those experiencing an array of consequences.

Hold perpetrators accountable. Survivors may be reluctant to disclose their victimization for a variety of reasons, including shame, embarrassment, fear of retribution from perpetrators, or a belief that they may not receive support from law enforcement. Laws also may not be enforced adequately or consistently. It is important to enhance training efforts within the criminal justice system to better engage and support survivors and thus assure perpetrators are held accountable.

What implications do these data have for future research?

The focus of this report is on describing the public health burden of victimization. In order to better understand how to prevent SV, stalking, and IPV, CDC also supports research to better understand the causes of perpetration and test prevention strategies. Research examining risk and protective factors is key to understanding how perpetration of violence develops and determining the optimal prevention strategies.

While much is known about risks factors at the individual and relationship level, there have been few studies examining community and societal-level factors related to perpetration of SV, stalking, and IPV. Identifying community and societal-level risk factors could be useful in identifying perpetration prevention strategies that have the most potential for broad impact.

Increased attention to protective factors is also critical to developing prevention programs as this knowledge can point to environments or situations that reduce the likelihood of violence perpetration, or prevent the likelihood of perpetration in the first place among those who are at high risk.

Finally, additional research is needed to develop and evaluate strategies to effectively prevent the first-time perpetration of SV, stalking, and IPV and to prevent these types of violence with specific at-risk groups.

Limitations of this Report

Why are there so many numbers not reported (for example, numbers for men)?

Estimates that are based on 20 or fewer cases were considered unreliable and therefore are not reported. In addition, any estimate that had a relative standard error greater than 30% was also deemed unreliable and not reported. This standard for determining the reliability of estimates is widely used by the CDC.

All samples have a degree of error or uncertainty associated with estimates.

NISVS & Other Surveys

What was the survey methodology of NISVS?

NISVS is a national random digit dial (RDD) telephone survey of the non-institutionalized English and Spanish-speaking U.S. population aged 18 or older. NISVS uses a dual-frame sampling strategy that includes both landline and cell phones. NISVS makes use of the latest U.S. telephone user and usage information. This dual-frame sampling strategy is used in other RDD telephone surveys conducted by the CDC and by other government agencies. The survey was conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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