members participated as respondents in mock interviews on the NCVS (criminal justice perspective) and the NISVS (public health approach).

In phase two, the panel developed a prioritized list of ideas that had potential to improve the quality of survey estimates of rape and sexual assault. These ideas reflected all components of total survey error, including imperfect sampling frames, inefficiency in sample selection, nonparticipation by sampled households and individuals, misspecification and other measurement problems, and processing errors. From these ideas, the panel developed the key elements of an “optimum” design for the measurement of rape and sexual assault. Some features of the recommended design closely resemble the current design of the NCVS, while others would require BJS to move away from the NCVS for implementation. The panel’s recommendations provide BJS with specific guidance on key aspects of this design.

As requested by Director Lynch, the panel worked publicly with investigators at Westat, which had been contracted by BJS to develop a pilot project to test two alternative survey designs to measure rape and sexual assault. Westat staff presented the status of their work at each of the panel’s open meetings and participated in open discussion at those meetings with panel members and other participants. Following the June 5-6, 2012, public workshop, several panel members provided individual informal comments to Westat on the draft plans that Westat presented at that public workshop. They are provided for the purpose of full disclosure in the Public Access File (see[March2014]). The Westat team and the panel kept each other advised of their project timelines for various activities throughout the process. Following NRC policy, there was no sharing of the panel’s deliberations, conclusions, and recommendations with Westat or BJS during this study.

Note that it was beyond the charge of this panel to compare estimates from the NCVS for other types (beyond rape and sexual assault) of victimizations to examine whether the NCVS possibly underestimated or overestimated these victimizations. The NRC has completed other studies of the broader NCVS (National Research Council, 2008, 2009).


The panel is charged with recommending best practices for measuring the incidences of criminal victimization of rape and sexual assault through BJS household surveys. This charge was not intended to nor did it restrict the panel to only considering solutions within the structure of the NCVS. A critical first step is to establish a broad understanding of the conceptual definitions for the terms rape and sexual assault. A second step is to look at how these concepts are measured operationally in existing data systems

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