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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault

Rape and Sexual Assault Large Cover





Report Brief


Rape and sexual assault are among the most injurious crimes a person can experience.  The effects are devastating, extending beyond the initial victimization to such consequences as unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, sleep and eating disorders, and other emotional and physical problems. 

Understanding the frequency and context in which rape and sexual assault occur is vital in directing resources of law enforcement and in designing and supporting programs for victims.  Reliable data can help in the formation of public health and mental health policies, including interventions that can reduce the risk of future attacks.

This report concludes that it is likely that rape and sexual assault are undercounted in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and that accurate counts of these crimes cannot be achieved without measuring them separately from other types of criminal victimizations. The report describes barriers to accurately measuring these crimes and recommends that the Bureau of Justice Statistics develop a separate survey for measuring rape and sexual assault.

Sponsor: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Contact: Carol House


June 5–6, 2012

  The Panel on Measuring Rape and Sexual Assaults in Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Household Surveys held a workshop June 5–6, 2012 in which papers commissioned by the panel and other invited speakers presented information used to inform the panel’s deliberations. Sessions examined the question: what are we trying to measure?; where are we now in that measurement?; and what new measurement tools will be helpful? Below is a list of speaker presentations and commissioned papers.

  The Target: What are we trying to measure?
BJS Program Goals and Expectations 
Jim Lynch, Director, BJS (no presentation slides – statement included in report)
Allen Beck, Senior Statistical Advisor, BJS

Defining Rape and Sexual Assault in the Legal System
Carol Tracy, Women’s Law Center
Jennifer Long, Aequitas

The Landscape: Where are we now?
An Examination of Ignorable Nonresponse in the NCVS
Fritz Scheuren, NORC at the University of Chicago

Subpopulations at High Risk for Rape and Sexual Assault: What does the NCVS Tell Us?
Janet Lauritsen, University of Missouri—St. Louis

Defining Rape and Sexual Assault in Surveys and Other Sources
Ronet Bachman, University of Delaware

The Tools: What new measurement tools will be helpful?
Alternative Survey Designs and Implementation Strategies Used to Collect Sensitive Data
Ken Rasinski, University of Chicago

Statistical Methods for Assessing the Bias in Estimates of Rates of Sensitive, Rare Events
Marcus Berzofsky, RTI International

Multiple Frame Surveys
David Wilson, RTI International
Jim Chromy, RTI International

  Commissioned Papers
  Measuring Rape and Sexual Assault: Successive Approximations to Consensus
Ronet Bachman

Multiple Frame Approaches to Identify and Survey Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault
James R. Chromy and David Wilson

Subpopulations at High Risk for Rape and Sexual Assault: What Does the NCVS Tell Us?
Janet L. Lauritsen

Design and implementation strategies used to collect information on rape and sexual assault: A review of the literature with recommendations for the NCVS
Kenneth A. Rasinski

Rape and Sexual Assault in the Legal System
Carol E. Tracy, Terry L. Fromson, Jennifer Gentile Long, Charlene Whitman

Statutory Compilation Rape and Sexual Assault Laws


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