National Violence Against Women Survey Essay

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In an effort to increase knowledge regarding violence against women, the National Institute of Justice and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cosponsored the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS). Using a screener and incident format, principal investigators Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes estimated lifetime and annual prevalence and annual incidence rates of violence.


The NVAWS, fielded late 1995 through mid-1996, used random digit-dialing and computer-assisted telephone interview to gather victimization data from 8,000 women and 8,005 men, age 18 or older. Participation rates were 72% for females and 69% for males.

Respondents were questioned about their overall fear of violence, about how they managed these fears, and about information on power, control, and emotional abuse sustained from current and former marital and cohabiting partners. Data on forcible rape, stalking, physical assaults perpetrated by adult caretakers when the respondents were children, physical assaults perpetrated by any offender as an adult, and threatened violence were obtained. In addition, respondents’ and their current spouse and/or partner’s demographic information were collected.

Investigators concluded that the NVAWS sample was similar to the population after a comparison with the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1995 Current Population Survey. A lack of representation is noted, as the sample underrepresents older people, those less than 30, less-educated people, African Americans, and Hispanic males.


NVAWS findings show that 51.9% of females and 66.4% of males were physically assaulted during their life and that 1.9% of women and 3.4% of men were physically assaulted during the previous year. An estimated 17.6% of females and 3.0% of males sustained a completed or attempted rape during their lifetime, while 0.3% of females and 0.1% of males were victims of the same during the previous year. NVAWS revealed that 8.1% of females and 2.2% of males were stalked during their life, while 1.0% of women and 0.4% of men were stalked in the prior year. Although published estimates are nominally higher than other estimates, many are not statistically different.

Advantages And Disadvantages

The principal investigators state that the NVAWS has advantages over other victim surveys. State-of-the-art techniques were utilized to protect the confidentiality of the data and to minimize risk of additional trauma to respondents. The survey allowed for both prevalence and incidence estimates. And multiple, behaviorally specific screen questions were utilized to increase clarity of the information desired.

One limitation of the NVAWS is the small number of victims from which estimates are calculated. Though 8,000 males and 8,000 females completed interviews, few were victims. Among females, NVAWS annual incidence estimates are based on 24 rape, 80 stalking, 152 physical assault, and 168 rape and/or physical assault victims. In total, estimates come from 240 female victims. Similarly, annual incidence estimates for males come from 312 individuals.

Although lifetime estimates are based on a greater number of victims, sample size problems are evident when comparing subgroups. For example, lifetime estimates of completed or attempted rapes are based on 146 African American, 9 Asian/Pacific Islander, and 30 American Indian/Alaska Native female victims. Lifetime estimates of stalking are based on 51 African American, 6 Asian/Pacific Islander, and 15 American Indian/Alaska Native female victims.


  1. Bachman, R. (2000). A comparison of annual incidence rates and contextual characteristics of intimate partner violence against women from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS). Violence Against Women, 6, 839–867.
  2. Rand, M., & Rennison, C. (2005). Bigger is not necessarily better: An analysis of violence against women estimate from the National Crime Victimization Survey and the National Violence Against Women Survey. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 21(3), 267–291.
  3. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000, November). Full report of the prevalence, incidence and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey (Report No. NCJ 183781). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

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