Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, and Stalking: National Data Collection Efforts Underway to Address Some Information Gaps
This testimony discusses issues related to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In hearings conducted from 1990 through 1994, Congress noted that violence against women was a problem of national scope and that the majority of crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking were perpetrated against women. These hearings culminated in the enactment of VAWA in 1994 to address these issues on a national level. VAWA established grant programs within the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) for state, local, and Indian tribal governments and communities. These grants have various purposes, such as providing funding for direct services including emergency shelter, counseling, and legal services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assaults and stalking across all segments of the population. Recipients of funds from these grant programs include, among others, state agencies, tribes, shelters, rape crisis centers, organizations that provide legal services, and hotlines. In 2000, during the reauthorization of VAWA, language was added to the law to provide greater emphasis on dating violence. The 2006 reauthorization of VAWA expanded existing grant programs and added new programs addressing, among other things, young victims. In fiscal year 2011, Congress appropriated approximately $418 million for violence against women programs administered by DOJ and made an additional $133 million available for programs administered by HHS. The 2006 reauthorization of VAWA required us to study and report on data indicating the prevalence of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking among men, women, youth, and children, as well as services available to the victims. Such data could be used to inform decisions regarding investments in grant programs. In response, we issued two reports in November 2006 and July 2007 on these issues, respectively. This testimony is based on these reports and selected updates we conducted in July 2011 related to actions DOJ and HHS have taken since our prior reviews to improve the quality of recipient data. This testimony, as requested, highlights findings from those reports and discusses the extent to which (1) national data collection efforts report on the prevalence of men, women, youth, and children who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, and (2) the federal government has collected data to track the types of services provided to these categories of victims and any challenges federal departments report that they and their grant recipients face in collecting and reporting demographic characteristics of victims receiving such services by type of service.