sources and their measurement approaches can lead to improvements in the measurement of rape and sexual assault on Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) surveys. Therefore, this chapter, drawing on Appendix D and Bachman (2012), summarizes and highlights what the panel learned from the comparisons among the five surveys and one administrative source covered in this report.

1.   UCR summary system (ongoing),

2.   NCVS (ongoing),

3.   National Women’s Study (NWS) (1989-1990),

4.   National Violence Against Women Study (NVAWS) (1995),

5.   National College Women Sexual Victimization Study (NCWSV) (1997), and

6.   National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) (2010, and perhaps ongoing).

Our comparisons are discussed in terms of five factors: the definitions used for rape and sexual assault; context in which data are collected; target population, sampling frame, and sample size; data collection mode, response rates, and adjustments for nonresponse; and the resulting measures of victimization.


The definitions used for rape vary, sometimes substantially, among the six data sources (see Table 6-1). The table also shows whether the source collected information on attempted rape and other forms of sexual assaults as well as rape.

The UCR definition (used through 2012) is clearly the most restrictive. It restricts rape counts to male on female attacks with penile-vagina penetration. Attempted rapes are counted, but all other forms of sexual victimizations are included in a general “assault” category. The revised definition, scheduled for implementation in 2013, will provide a broader base for reports of rape and attempted rape. This change should result in a larger number of crimes being counted as rape and fewer crimes being counted in the “assault” category. Importantly, the UCR only measures incidents reported to police. This is an important difference with the other data sources, and the new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) definition will not change this difference.

The NCVS has a broader definition of rape. It includes male and female victims and offenders. It includes penetration (vaginal, anal, and oral) by penis, other body parts, and other objects. It also separately measures attempted rape and a fairly wide range of sexual assaults, including verbal

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement