NCVS' Crime Statistics Obscure A Clear Picture of Sexual Assault says the NSVRC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 19, 2001 Contact: Karen Baker 1-877-739-3895 Ext 101 or Jan Baily 1-888-772-7227 Ext 20 NCVS' CRIME STATISTICS OBSCURE A CLEAR PICTURE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT SAYS THE NSVRC -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enola, PA
(June 19, 2001) Last week the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported a 15% drop in the violent crime victimization rate over the previous year. This composite figure reflects the rates of simple and aggravated assault, robbery, rape and sexual assault. The rate of Rape/Sexual Assault decreased by 29.4% for the same period. Karen Baker, Project Director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said, "It is promising to see these figures moving downward, but we should be cautious about accepting them as clear indication of a decrease in sexual violence. One must look at the individual figures and consider the magnitude of long-term trends. The numbers of simple and aggravated assaults since 1994 declined more consistently and dramatically than did the number of Rape/Sexual Assaults." Last year, this same National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported that the overall rate decreased 10%, while the figure for Rape/Sexual Assault increased 13.3% and the rate of Rape increased 20%. According to Ms. Baker, "This year, the decrease in these categories appears so dramatic only because the same figures had actually increased the previous year. Compared to just two years prior, the decrease is less extreme."
Last month, the FBI announced preliminary UCR figures for 2000, indicating virtually no change in the crime rate, (a 0.1% increase). When comparing these FBI figures with NCVS findings, Barry Ruback, Professor of Crime, Law and Justice, and of Sociology at Penn State, asserts, "Such inconsistencies in the two reports raise questions about the validity of both. Year to year analysis of variations is incorrect and perhaps irresponsible." According to Baker "the overall victimization rate may be a useful picture of US crime in particular arenas, but as a composite figure it obscures much about sexual assault.
The anti-sexual violence movement has been concerned about using any single statistical report as a measure of sexual assault. The nature of this victimization includes forms that are often not captured in surveys and is characterized by a real hesitancy to report." To exemplify Baker added, "Approximately 34% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement agencies deals with juveniles under age 12 and the NCVS only includes victims age 12 and older." In a recent paper, Ruback & Menard addressed the problem of UCR and NCVS data as it pertains to sexual assault. "Both measures are almost certainly incorrect, in that there is general consensus that all measures of sexual assault in the United States underestimates the true extent of the crime. (Koss, 1992, 1996: Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998)" Ruback asserts that "meaningful changes can be found by analyzing multiple data sources and reports together and looking for long term trends. Hospital admissions and rape crisis center data should be included in that analysis."

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