U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Measuring Rape Against Women: The Significance of Survey Questions (From Violence Against Women and Family Violence: Developments in Research, Practice, and Policy, 2004, Bonnie Fisher, ed. -- See NCJ-199701)

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2004
16 pages
This paper compares rape estimates generated from a quasi-experimental research design used by the National College Women Sexual Victimization Study (NCWSV) and the National Violence Against College Women (NVACW) Study, but with differing incident report and screening questions.
Some attributes of the designs of the two studies were identical, and others were manipulated so that they differed. The sampling designs were identical, in that the population included all 4-year and 2-year institutions of higher education that had a total student enrollment of at least 1,000 students. The sampling frame for both studies was provided by the American Student List Company. Both studies used an identical two-stage sampling design. First, 233 respective institutions of higher education were selected from 12 strata. Institutions in each stratum were selected by using a probability proportionate to the size of the female enrollment. Second, within each selected institution, female students were randomly selected. The total sample size of both the NCWSV and NVACW was large, 4,446 and 4,432 college women, respectively. Other similarities were study context, interviewing, defining rape (completed, attempted, and threatened rape), and operationalizing rape. The only differences in the two studies were the screen and incident report questions. This study found that the estimates for completed rape, attempted rape, and threats of rape from the NVACW study were statistically significantly lower than the estimates from the NCWSV study. Apparently the NCWSV study's use of a wide range of behaviorally specific screen questions accounted for its higher estimates. The use of a number of graphically worded screen questions in NCWSV likely prompted more women who had potentially experienced a sexual victimization to report this fact to the interviewer. Implications are drawn for researchers and practitioners. 2 exhibits, 10 notes, and 40 references

Date Published: January 1, 2004