Sexual Violence: United States Health and Justice Measures of Sexual Victimization
The United States (US) federal government uses three data collection systems to measure sexual victimization:
- the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS);
- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS); and
- the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)
The surveys are designed for different purposes, focus on different populations, and collect different types of information. They also differ in how questions about sexual victimization are asked and what types of victimization are included.
In addition to data collected through self-reported surveys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS) also includes national data on rapes that are reported to law enforcement. Because the UCR data are generally based on the actual counts of offenses reported by law enforcement jurisdictions, they differ from estimates derived from surveys in that they exclude victimizations that are not reported to police. Each of the three surveys and the UCR has strengths and limitations in the types of information that can be provided. Collectively, they present a complementary and more comprehensive picture of sexual victimization in the US.
National Crime Victimization Survey – BJS
The BJS NCVS has captured information since 1973 on a range of nonfatal personal and property crimes. Measures of sexual victimization were officially added to the NCVS in 1992, following a major redesign of the survey. Each year, through the NCVS, BJS interviews a nationally representative sample of more than 220,000 persons age 12 or older in US households about their experiences with victimizations both reported and not reported to police. Once selected, households are in the sample for 3.5 years, with interviews conducted every six months, either in person or over the telephone.
The NCVS measures forced or coerced sexual intercourse (rape), attempted rape, other unwanted sexual contact achieved with or without force, and threats of rape and sexual assault. The survey is incident-based and attribute-based, capturing specific details about each crime incident that occurred during the six-month reference period. Victims are asked details about the incident, such as the time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, economic and emotional consequences, and experiences with reporting to police and other help-seeking behavior. The NCVS additionally captures detailed information on the characteristics of victims, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, income, educational level and student status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the characteristics of the offender, such as age, race, gender, and relationship to the victim.
The incident- and attribute- based approach of the NCVS means that it can be used to generate both incidence rates (a measure of the number of victimizations experienced by members of a given population) and prevalence rates (a measure of unique persons in a given population who experienced one or more victimization) of sexual victimization. One benefit of the NCVS’ incident level information is that it can be used to quantify ‘the hidden figure’ of crime – victimizations that go unreported to police – and provide reasons why victims do and do not report particular types of sexual victimization to the police. The approach also allows for examination of the relationships among the characteristics of victims, characteristics of incidents and the victim response.
The longitudinal nature of the NCVS collection provides the ability to assess the nature of and characteristics associated with repeat victimization and the co-occurrence of sexual victimization and other crimes. Additionally, because the NCVS has been administered on a continuous basis since 1992, another strength of the survey is that it affords the ability to examine trends over time. Since the survey is administered in a consistent manner to all respondents, the data can also be used to examine subgroup differences in the level and nature of victimization.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey – CDC
NISVS is an ongoing, nationally-representative random-digit-dial landline and cell phone health survey that collects detailed information on sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization of adult (aged 18 and older) women and men in the US. The survey collects data on past-year and lifetime experiences of violence among residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was launched in 2010 and data collection is ongoing.
NISVS includes behaviorally specific questions focused on sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence. NISVS also captures contextual data about frequency of the events, perpetrator details, age at first victimization, impact, and health conditions. Sexual violence specific topics include completed and attempted forced or alcohol/drug facilitated penetration of the victim (i.e., rape) or incidents in which the victim was made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else, as well as sexual coercion (i.e., non-physically forced pressure to have unwanted penetration), unwanted sexual contact (e.g., groping), and non-contact acts of a sexual nature (e.g., flashing). NISVS collects detailed information about victimization experiences, including victim age at the first experience, the sex, age, and type of perpetrator, and outcomes of penetrative sexual violence including injury, contracting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant. Victims are also asked about physical and psychological impacts of, and help seeking as a result of, all of their violence experiences. NISVS captures demographic information on victims (age, sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, education, immigrant status, state of residence). NISVS also asks about numerous health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma) and physical and mental disability status.
As a complement to crime surveys, NISVS is the first national survey using a health context which is designed to improve disclosure of victimization, as many respondents either do not consider their experiences to be crimes or are unwilling to report them as crimes for numerous reasons (e.g., fear of retaliation, stigma). NISVS also includes numerous behaviorally specific questions that do not require the respondent to label their experience as “rape” or “sexual assault” and allows respondents many opportunities to disclose their experiences. Further, the sexual violence questions are not limited to physically forced sex. NISVS measures multiple types of penetrative and non-penetrative acts and contexts, such as sexual violence that occurred when the respondent was unable to consent because of the voluntary or involuntary use of drugs or alcohol. NISVS also measures impacts of the violence and numerous indicators of health that allow for an understanding of how violence is associated with immediate risks as well as chronic health conditions.
NISVS provides both national and state-level data, and lifetime and 12-month prevalence estimates. Lifetime estimates allow reporting of the age at first victimization, which is helpful to prevention planners in determining the best timing for prevention efforts; 12-month estimates will enable an examination of trends over time as more data years are completed. State-level data is critical for understanding the burden of violence in a given state and to inform state prevention planning.
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System – CDC
The YRBSS is a CDC surveillance system that monitors priority health risk behaviors predominantly among high school students in the US. The YRBSS began collecting data in 1991 and has been conducted every other year since. Sexual violence questions have been included since 2001 to help understand how many youth may be affected by sexual violence, which can have serious long-term and short-term effects. YRBSS data are obtained from a national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by CDC as well as school-based state, territorial, tribal, and large urban school district Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted by education and health agencies in each jurisdiction. The questionnaire is self-administered by students in scientifically selected samples of schools and classes. All students in sampled classes who can complete the questionnaire independently are eligible to participate.
The YRBSS monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors: 1) behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; 2) sexual behaviors that contribute to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy; 3) tobacco use; 4) alcohol and other drug use; 5) unhealthy dietary behaviors; and 6) physical inactivity. In addition, YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma.
There are three sexual violence questions included in the YRBSS standard and national questionnaires. Since 2001, a question about forced sexual intercourse has been included (Have you ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to?); since 2013, a question on sexual dating violence has been included [During the past 12 months, how many times did someone you were dating or going out with force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do? (Count such things as kissing, touching, or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.)]. Beginning in 2017, a third question has been included similar to the sexual dating violence question but focused on sexual violence by any perpetrator [During the past 12 months, how many times did anyone force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do? (Count such things as kissing, touching, or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse)].
YRBSS is the only ongoing nationally representative survey of high school students that measures sexual violence. This enables the monitoring of trends over time and also allows an examination of the association between violence and many other health risk behaviors among youth. YRBSS is designed to provide comparable national, state, territorial, tribal, and local data.
Uniform Crime Reporting Program – FBI
The FBI has administered the UCR since 1930. The UCR Program collects information on a range of property and violent crimes that come to the attention of police, including rape against females and males of all ages. The Program compiles data from monthly law enforcement reports or individual crime incident records transmitted directly to the FBI or to centralized agencies that then report the data to the FBI. The FBI thoroughly examines each report it receives for reasonableness, accuracy, and deviations that may indicate errors.
Through the SRS, the UCR presents national crime counts, as well as counts for regions, states, counties, cities, towns, tribal law enforcement, colleges and universities, and other specialized law enforcement agencies. This includes counts of completed and attempted rape, defined since 2013 as “penetration no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The UCR SRS does not cover sexual victimization that is not rape and excludes cases of consensual incest and statutory rape. Data on the characteristics of incidents and victims are also not available through the SRS.
Many local and state law enforcement agencies participating in the UCR Program also submit their data via the more comprehensive National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). While NIBRS data are available for a limited number of states and other jurisdictions, the NIBRS system collects information on a broader range of forcible and nonforcible sex offenses, as well as information about the nature of the incident and characteristics of the victim.
One strength of the UCR is the ability to examine subnational rates of victimization. The SRS permits analysis among neighboring jurisdictions and among those with similar populations and other common characteristics. The UCR Program also covers crimes occurring among populations that are beyond the scope of the household- or school- based surveys, such as persons who are homeless and young children. Additionally, the UCR can be used for analysis of trends over time in the number and rate of rape victimizations against females (in January 2013, the rape definition was revised to include male victims).
|Administrating agency||Bureau of Justice Statistics||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||Federal Bureau of Investigation|
|Website||The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)||The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey||Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)||The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program|
|Context||Crime||Public health||Public health||Crime|
|Focus||Victims and incidents of nonfatal violent and property crime both reported and not reported to the police||Victims and consequences of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence||Health risk behaviors among youth in the United States||Violent and property crimes that come to the attention of law enforcement agencies|
|Data years available||1992-present||2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, ongoing every other year starting in 2016||2001-present||1930-present|
|Data collection method||In person and telephone interviews||Telephone/cell phone interviews||Self-administered questionnaire||Reports from law enforcement agencies|
|Eligible respondents||All persons ages 12 or older living in US households and non-institutional group living facilities||Non-institutionalized adults aged 18 or older||Students in grades 9-12 attending public and private schools in the 50 states and District of Columbia||City, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide|
|Number of respondents||~220,000 persons in ~130,000 households||~12,000 to over 25,000 per data collection period||~14,000 for the national survey and ~2,000-3,000 for most state, territorial, tribal, and local surveys||~17,000 law enforcement agencies|
|Sexual victimization measures||Forced or coerced rape; attempted rape, other types of unwanted sexual contact achieved with or without force; threats of rape and sexual assault||Forced or alcohol /drug facilitated rape/attempted rape and being made to penetrate; sexual coercion; unwanted sexual contact; and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences||Forced sexual intercourse; other forced sexual acts||Completed and attempted rape|
|Time frame of estimates||Past calendar year||Past calendar year; lifetime||Past 12 months; lifetime||Past calendar year|
|Types of estimates||Counts and rates of victims; counts and rates of incidents; counts and rates of victimizations||Prevalence and estimated number of victims||Prevalence||Counts and rates of offenses|
|Geographic level of estimates||National||National; state||National; state; territorial; tribal; local||National, state, Metropolitan Statistical Areas|
|Key uses for sexual victimization data||
The NCVS, NISVS, YRBSS, and UCR each have strengths and limitations in the information on sexual victimization they can provide. While these collections together contribute to a more comprehensive view of sexual victimization in our nation, measurement differences across the collections lead to differences in the stories they tell about the level of victimization experienced by US residents. Several of these key measurement differences are discussed below.
Scope and context of data collection
The NCVS and the UCR are crime-based collections, whereas information from the YRBSS and NISVS are collected in a public health context. From a public health perspective, certain types of sexual victimization, such as the non-contact unwanted sexual experiences measured by NISVS, may be harmful and important to measure, although they do not necessarily rise to the level of criminal behavior. Using a broad range of behaviors that constitute sexual victimization in a public health data collection compared to a criminal justice collection could result in higher estimates of the prevalence of sexual victimization. Context (e.g., crime versus public health) can additionally be important because if the respondent does not consider what happened to be a crime, he or she may be less likely to report that incident in an interview presented in the context of crime. This may be particularly true for sexual victimization given most perpetrators are known to the victim. Survey context differences could partially explain the lower rates of sexual victimization in crime surveys compared to public health surveys.
Question wording and design
The language of questions in a survey may affect whether a respondent indicates that an incident occurred. The three surveys use different approaches to asking about experiences with rape and other sexual victimization. The NCVS and YRBSS ask questions about sexual victimization using more traditional criminal justice terminology. The NCVS questions include the terms ‘rape,’ ‘attempted rape,’ and ‘forced or unwanted sexual acts,’ and the YRBSS asks about ‘forced sexual intercourse.’ These terms are not explicitly defined for the respondent and if the victim does not feel that his or her experience can be described by those terms, the question may not be answered affirmatively. On the other hand, the NISVS uses behaviorally specific questions to ask whether these types of experiences occurred. For instance, rather than asking women if they have been raped, NISVS asks whether they experienced physically forced “vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by a male using his penis or a male or female using their fingers, or an object.” With this approach the exact acts that are within scope are described and defined for the respondent. One downside is that more questions are needed to fully capture the behaviors measured which can create additional respondent burden. However, additional questions may also facilitate rapport and increase opportunities for disclosure of victimization.
The three surveys also differ in whether they use a one- or two-stage approach to measuring sexual victimization experiences. The NISVS and YRBSS use a one-stage approach meaning that an affirmative response to a question like the example provided above results in that respondent being counted as a victim of rape. The NCVS on the other hand, uses a two-stage approach to identifying incidents of rape and sexual assault. Initially, a screener is administered, with cues designed to help the respondent’s recollection of events and ascertain whether the respondent experienced any criminal victimization during the reference period. If the respondent answers a screening question affirmatively, he or she then completes an incident form about each incident. The incident form captures detailed information about the incident and is used for classifying the type of crime that occurred. Even if the respondent does not respond affirmatively to the specific screeners on rape and unwanted sexual contact, the respondent could still be classified as a rape or sexual assault victim if a rape or unwanted sexual contact is reported during the stage-two incident report for another type of crime. The positives and negatives of the one and two stage approaches have been well documented in the literature, but it is unclear the extent to which these approaches alone impact estimates of sexual victimization or how they impact the estimates.
Another important consideration in national sexual violence estimates is who is included in the study population. Although all the systems are intended to be representative of the populations they are designed to cover, each system necessarily excludes certain categories of victims. For instance, the four collections vary in the ages for eligibility. NISVS includes adults ages 18 and older; NCVS includes anyone who is 12 years or older; YRBSS includes students in grades 9-12, and UCR covers any reported crime regardless of the victim’s age. Aside from age, it is important to consider who else is not represented in the study population. For example, the NCVS sample is address- and household-based and does not cover those who are homeless, living in military barracks, or institutionalized; YRBSS is school-based so excludes youth not in school; the UCR is based on police reports so excludes victims who do not report to the police; and NISVS is a landline/cell phone based survey, thus, does not capture those who live in institutions or do not have telephones.
Mode of data collection and response rates
For resident surveys like the NCVS, NISVS, and YRBSS, the mode of data collection can impact both respondent participation in the survey and victim disclosure of sexual victimization. Self-administered surveys, such as the YRBSS, are not subject to interviewer effects and afford respondents the greatest privacy for reporting on sensitive topics. However, some victims may appreciate the opportunity to talk about what happened to them and may be more inclined to provide information about an incident to an interviewer than on a survey form. Interviewer-administered surveys like the NCVS and NISVS, can be subject to interviewer effects if respondents are more or less likely to talk about their experiences depending on characteristics of the interviewer. For instance, female respondents may be more comfortable talking about sexual victimization with female interviewers than male interviewers. For this reason, NISVS only uses female interviewers given previous research suggesting that female interviewers are more likely to create conditions that are conducive to disclosure of both male and female respondents. Additionally, in-person versus telephone interviews may result in differences in disclosure. For example, a respondent may not be comfortable disclosing sensitive information in-person to an interviewer in their home where other family members may be present. While both in-person and telephone interviewers are trained to instruct respondents to answer survey questions in private, there is always a possibility that respondents may be deterred from providing accurate survey responses if they think that someone nearby could overhear.
Data collection mode can also impact response rates and influence nonresponse bias. Surveys with low response rates may result in estimates that are subject to nonresponse bias. Nonresponse bias means that those who participated in the survey may differ in important ways from those who did not participate, which could in turn impact the survey findings. In the NCVS, first interviews are conducted in person to develop rapport with respondents and NCVS response rates have historically been above 80%. The NISVS faces challenges with reaching respondents by phone. The 2015 NISVS response rate was 26.4%. However, when contact was made with an eligible telephone respondent, the rate of cooperation was 89.6%. In 2015, the self-administered, national YRBSS had a school response rate of 69%, a student response rate of 86%, and an overall response rate (school response rate x student response rate) of 60%.
While the UCR is an administrative records collection, the data are also impacted by response rates in terms of whether law enforcement jurisdictions provide the summary statistics and how complete their reporting is. In 2015, law enforcement agencies active in the UCR Program represented 98% of the total population. The coverage amounted to 99% of the population in Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 92% of the population in cities outside metropolitan areas, and 93% of the population in non-metropolitan counties.1
Data on the characteristics of the violence
Another difference between these data systems is the additional data that are collected on the characteristics of sexual violence. The NCVS and NISVS collect rich data about the sexual violence experience, such as the victim’s relationship with the perpetrator, when and where the violence occurred, the frequency of victimization, and associated impacts. For instance, NCVS includes, weapon use, injury, socio-economic consequences of the crime, and victim help-seeking behaviors. NISVS includes detailed information about the health impacts associated with victimization including acquiring an STD, getting pregnant, injury, need for services, and various chronic health conditions. NISVS also captures the age at first victimization of rape and being made to penetrate. The YRBSS captures whether the events occurred, but no further details are collected about the violence because the primary focus of the survey is general health versus sexual violence specifically. However, the YRBSS includes many health risk behaviors that can be examined in relationship to the violence. The UCR SRS data does not include any contextual information.
The four major data collection systems in the US that capture measures of sexual victimization are conducted for different purposes and focus on different aspects of victimization. Recognizing the strengths and limitations of each collection and when each should be utilized is beneficial for building a stronger understanding of the magnitude and nature of sexual victimization in the US. Understanding the magnitude and nature of sexual victimization is an important step to preventing it.
It is necessary to use survey data, rather than police data, to understand the complete picture of both reported and unreported sexual victimization. However, the differences among the three federal surveys that measure sexual victimization necessitate some consideration of which survey data to use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YBRSS) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) each have strengths and limitations in the types of information that can be provided.
Which survey should be used to…
Examine trends over time in rates of sexual victimization and intimate partner violence among persons of any age?
NISVS. Not yet. NISVS will be able to provide trend data on adult (18+ years old) victimization starting in approximately 2020.
NCVS. Yes. NCVS can be used to measure changes over time in the number of rape and sexual assault victimizations and victims in a given year.
- Data are available annually from 1993 on.
- The NCVS shows that rates of intimate partner and sexual violence declined more dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s than in the later 2000s; though the latter period also resulted in statistically significant declines in rates among certain age groups.
YRBSS. No. YRBSS has trend data but is limited to persons in 9th-12th grades.
Examine trends over time in rates of sexual victimization among juveniles and adults?
NISVS. No. The NISVS is administered to persons 18 or older so it cannot follow trends over time in people under 18 years of age. In order to examine trends, data about respondents’ experiences within the last year, collected over multiple years, are needed.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS is administered to persons aged 12 or older and can be used to measure changes in the number of rape and sexual assault victimizations and the percent of the population ages 12 to 17 who experienced rape and sexual assault in a given year.
- NCVS data are available annually from 1993 on.
- The NCVS shows that annual rates of rape and sexual assault victimization declined among people ages 12 to 17 from 1993 through 2015.
YRBSS. Yes. The YRBSS can be used to examine whether there has been a change in the rate of persons in 9th-12th grades who experienced forced sexual intercourse during their lifetime, and sexual violence or physical and sexual teen dating violence in the last 12 months.
- YRBSS data on forced sexual intercourse are available biennially starting in 2001.
- During 2001–2017, a significant decrease occurred overall in the prevalence of being physically forced to have sexual intercourse among high school students.
- YRBSS data on physical and sexual teen dating violence are available starting in 2013.
- During 2013-2017, a significant decrease occurred overall in the prevalence of last 12 month physical and sexual teen dating violence among high school students.
- YRBSS data on sexual violence by any perpetrator are available starting in 2017.
Understand the lifetime prevalence of sexual victimization among persons 18 years or older?
- For example, according to NISVS, approximately 1 in 5 women (aged 18 and older) have been raped and 1 in 14 men (aged 18 and older) have been made to penetrate someone during their lifetime.
NCVS. No. The NCVS does not measure lifetime prevalence.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS does capture lifetime prevalence of forced sexual intercourse but is only administered to youth in 9th-12th grades.
Understand the lifetime prevalence of rape among adolescents?
NISVS. Yes. The NISVS is administered to persons 18 or older, but asks about the age of first victimization (including before the age of 18) so can produce prevalence estimates of rape by age group, including adolescents.
- According to NISVS, approximately 1 in 13 women in the US report being raped (completed or attempted) when they were younger than 18.
NCVS. No. The NCVS does not measure lifetime prevalence..
YRBSS. Yes. The YRBSS is administered to persons in 9th-12th grades and asks about lifetime experiences of forced sexual intercourse.
- YRBSS data shows that more than 1 in 10 female high school students experienced forced sexual intercourse in their lifetime.
Examine sexual victimization among college students?
NISVS. No. The NISVS does not capture information on whether the respondent is enrolled in college.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS collects information on whether the respondent is enrolled in college and whether he or she lives on a college campus.
- The offender was known to the victim in the majority of rape and sexual assault victimizations against college students.
- The majority of sexual victimizations against college students were not reported to police.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS is administered to persons in 9th-12th grades.
Understand why sexual victimizations are not reported to police?
NISVS. No. The NISVS does not collect incident level information.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS asks whether the sexual victimization was reported to police. If the victimization was unreported, victims are asked why it was not reported.
- The majority of rape and sexual assault victimizations are not reported to police.
- Among the more common reasons for a sexual victimization to go unreported to police are fear of retaliation, the idea that the police would not do anything to help, and the personal nature of the victimization.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS does not collect incident level information.
Examine characteristics of incidents of sexual victimization, such as location, presence of a weapon, and injury?
NISVS. No. The NISVS does not collect incident level information. Information about the characteristics of victimization experiences cannot be tied to a particular incident.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS is incident-based and attribute-based, meaning that it collects detailed information about the nature of each incident and uses that information to classify the type of crime that occurred.
- The majority of rape and sexual assault victimizations against females occurred at or near the victim’s home, did not involve a weapon, and did not result in the victim seeking medical treatment.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS does not collect incident level information or information about the characteristics of experiences of forced sexual intercourse.
Examine criminal sexual victimization?
NISVS. Yes. The NISVS can be used to measure the prevalence of criminal sexual victimization such as rape and unwanted sexual contact.
- NISVS data reveal that 1 in 5 women have been raped and more than a third of women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact (e.g., groping) in their lifetime
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS is a survey about criminal victimization. It measures the annual prevalence and incidence of threatened, attempted and completed rape and sexual assault.
- From 2011 to 2015, an annual average of over 320,000 rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred in the US.
YRBSS. Yes. The YRBSS asks specifically about forced sexual intercourse.
- More than 1 in 10 female and 1 in 33 male high school students have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at some point in their life.
Examine a broad range of sexual victimization, including those that may not rise to the level of criminal acts, such as sexual coercion?
NISVS. Yes. The NISVS includes not only completed and attempted rape and being made to penetrate, but also non-criminal acts such as sexual coercion (i.e., penetration that occurs after non-physical pressure or intimidation) and verbal sexual harassment.
- For example, about 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men experienced sexual coercion (i.e., non-physically forced pressure to have sex) in their lifetime.
NCVS. No. The NCVS focuses on criminal victimization.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS measures criminal acts. It asks about lifetime experiences of forced sexual intercourse and also measures 12 months experiences with unwanted sexual activity (being forced to do sexual things counting kissing, touching, or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse) by any perpetrator and by a dating partner.
Examine characteristics of perpetrators/offenders of sexual victimization?
NISVS. Yes. NISVS captures the sex, race/ethnicity, age, and relationship between the victim and perpetrator.
- NISVS finds that the majority of perpetrators of rape and other sexual victimization against women are male acquaintances or intimate partners.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS captures the sex, race/Hispanic origin and age of the offender, as well as the relationship between the victim and offender and the victim’s perceptions that offender was using drugs or alcohol.
- Based on NCVS data, the majority of female victims of rape and sexual assault have male offenders who are acquaintances or intimate partners.
YRBSS. No. The YRBSS does not capture any information about the perpetrators of forced sexual intercourse, sexual violence by any perpetrator, or physical and sexual teen dating violence.
Examine sexual victimization among different population groups?
NISVS. Yes. NISVS captures sexual victimization by sex, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, education, marital status, and income.
- Bisexual women are disproportionally impacted by sexual victimization. They experienced a significantly higher lifetime prevalence of rape and other sexual victimization than both lesbian and heterosexual women. Other characteristics of sexual victimization victims are that they are often female, under the age of 25, and a member of a racial/ethnic minority group.
NCVS. Yes. The NCVS can be used to examine the characteristics of victims of sexual victimization, including sex, race/Hispanic origin, age, education, marital status, and household income.
- Some of the characteristics associated with higher rates of sexual victimization include being female, ages 12- 34, living in a low income household, and either being never married or divorced or separated.
YRBSS: Yes. The YRBSS captures sexual victimization by sex, race/ethnicity, age, grade in school, and sexual orientation.
- YRBSS data show that lesbian/gay/bisexual students are more likely than heterosexual students to experience sexual dating violence.
Examine the impacts of sexual violence and intimate partner violence?
NISVS. Yes. NISVS captures physical (e.g., injury) and psychological (e.g., fear, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms) impacts and need for services (e.g., legal, housing, victim’s advocate).
- About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men reported short and long term impacts – most commonly fear, concern for safety, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and injury – as a result of intimate partner violence (including sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking).
NCVS. Yes. NCVS collects information on the economic, social, physical and emotional impacts of sexual victimization.
- The majority of victims of rape and sexual assault experienced socio-emotional problems, including emotional distress, problems with family and friends, or problems with school or work, as a result of the victimization.
- About half of victims of a sexual victimization suffered a physical injury.
Examine health conditions associated with sexual violence and intimate partner violence?
NISVS. Yes. NISVS captures numerous chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, chronic pain) as well as disability status.
- Men and women who experienced rape or stalking by any perpetrator, or physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in the life were more likely to report poor physical and mental health than those who did not experience these forms of violence.
NCVS. No. NCVS is a crime survey and does not measure long term health conditions.
YRBSS. Yes. The YRBSS captures numerous health risk behaviors associated with victimization such as alcohol and drug use, sexual risk behaviors, and suicide-related behaviors.
- High school students who experienced both physical and sexual teen dating violence were more likely than students who did not to report physical fighting, carrying a weapon, alcohol use, and attempted suicide.
Examine sexual victimization by state or other jurisdiction?
NISVS. Yes. The NISVS is designed to provide national data as well as data for 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- For example, state lifetime prevalence estimates of rape victimization of women range from 1 in 4 to 1 in 8 women across 50 states in the US.
NCVS. Not yet. The NCVS redesigned the sample in 2016 to be able to produce estimates of victimization for the 22 largest states and large areas within those states. For subnational estimates of sexual victimization it will be necessary to aggregate three to five years of data to generate reliable and precise estimates.
YRBSS. Yes. The YRBSS is designed to provide national, state, territorial, tribal, and local data.
- Across 34 states, the prevalence of having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in life ranged from 1 in 5 to 1 in 20. Across 20 large urban school districts, the prevalence ranged from 1 in 9 to 1 in 15.
This content was written by Kathleen C. Basile, PhD Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lynn Langton, PhD Bureau of Justice Statistics, and Leah K. Gilbert, MD Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Findings and conclusions presented on this web page are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).