By David Lee on February 16, 2010 · tagged as , ,

Understanding sexual assault prevalence studies

In a study in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, the authors show the differences between different data sources about sexual assault prevalence.  In particular, the paper contains detailed charts highlighting the differences between the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS).

Later in 2010 we will get the first estimates from a new survey, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Surveillance System. Until then, this article is helpful to understand how surveys collect their data.

Here is the full abstract and the full citation:

An Assessment of State Level Sexual Assault Prevalence Estimates.

Potter SJ, Laflamme DJ. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2010; ePublished January 25, 2010

Click here for a link to the abstract on journal’s web site.

(Copyright © 2010, Springer Science+Business Media)

The purpose of our research is to compare sexual violence prevalence rates from three sources of state level data. Public health officials, legislators and other policymakers often require state-level sexual assault prevalence estimates to justify funding and rationalize both new and ongoing sexual violence prevention programs, as well as programs for victims. We compared survey design and resulting prevalence rates of the three surveys frequently used at the state level: the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) extrapolations, and replications of the NVAWS. Although the specificity of the questions used in the NVAWS provides a clearer picture of the prevalence of sexual assault than the BRFSS questions, the sexual violence module on the BRFSS survey has the advantage that it is used regularly by some states. Currently available female sexual assault prevalence estimates differ widely at the state level but can be used when interpreted with informed caution. The new National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Surveillance System holds promise for providing better estimates in the future.

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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