the reporting of incidents of rape and sexual assault, are discussed in-depth in Chapters 4 and 8. Some respondents may not view their victimization as criminal. Or they may have decided not to report the incident to police as a crime and now have concerns about reporting it on a government crime survey. When asked specifically about “rape” and “sexual assault,” survey respondents may not consistently or accurately understand those terms. Research has shown that a change to behaviorally specific questions increases reporting of the criminal victimizations (Fisher, 2009). As detailed in Chapter 8, the context of a crime survey is likely to inhibit positive responses (Conclusion 8-7 in Chapter 8), and the use of behaviorally specific questions would likely lead to more accurate responses (Conclusion 8-6 in Chapter 8).
RECOMMENDATION 10-5 The questionnaire and protocols for the recommended new survey should have a neutral context, such as a health survey. The Bureau of Justice Statistics should explore several neutral alternatives while continuing to use both a victimization screening questionnaire and an incident report. The questions on both of these instruments should be reworded to incorporate behaviorally specific questions.
Self-Administered Mode of Data Collection with One Household Member Selected
It is critically important to provide privacy to respondents when asking them to recall the details of a rape or sexual assault. The current NCVS does not provide this privacy, and this fact is one of the primary reasons for the panel’s recommendation to conduct a separate survey to measure incidence rates. The lack of privacy in the current NCVS is rooted in the fact that everyone in the household is interviewed and therefore knows the questions that are being asked, and there is an oral interview taking place that might be overheard. A second issue in dealing with these sensitive questions is that respondents may feel that reporting their criminal victimization to an interviewer may be socially undesirable, so they do not report accurately. (These issues are discussed in-depth in Chapter 8.)
These characteristics of the NCVS lead to the panel’s recommendation for a self-administered mode of collecting the information and a single-respondent design. There are significant cost considerations in moving to a survey with a single respondent per household. It takes considerable resources to make the initial contact with a household, and the current NCVS then has multiple respondents as a result of that contact. Thus, the sampling error will increase under a single-respondent design unless a larger sample of households is selected or multiple-frame sampling provides