Improving national sexual assault statistics

The Challenge 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has hired Westat to test different methods for collecting self-reports of sexual assault, a crime that has proved difficult to measure in surveys and whose prevalence rate across the country is unclear.

To get accurate information about sexual violence, a survey needs to ask respondents a wide range of questions.

Our Solutions 

  • We are developing an audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI) system for collecting data on sexual assault. The system allows women to answer questions directly on a computer, without having to speak to a person.
  • We will compare the ACASI system to telephone (random digit dialing [RDD]) data collection by surveying 3 groups of women
    • Young women recruited online and through universities
    • Victims of rape or sexual assault recruited through advocacy centers
    • A randomly selected group of women
  • Our research will help researchers
    • Evaluate the accuracy, utility, and costs of the different methods of collecting data on sexual assault
    • Understand differences in responses using different methodologies

The Results 

  • This information will
    • Help improve government estimates of sexual assaults
    • Lead to better estimates that policymakers and others can use to make better decisions

Our Client 

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)