Develop a SART
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Gather Community Data

Victim Surveys

Conduct victim surveys to find out how well the community is responding to victims' needs. According to the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, surveys need to ask victims about how their cases were handled and how service providers treated them:6

It is important to assess victims' experiences throughout the criminal justice process, including those victims whose cases:

  • Are not reported to authorities.
  • Are not pursued because the perpetrator is not apprehended.
  • Are not filed (or dropped) after the initial investigation.
  • Are pled out before or during trial.
  • Are completed through trial, but may or may not obtain a guilty verdict.
  • Result in a guilty verdict with sentences that may or may not include incarceration.

This section reviews—

Predevelopment Questions

Before designing a victim survey, consider several key questions:7

  • Should the survey measure victims' satisfaction with all the services they received?
  • Should the survey measure the victims' satisfaction only with services obtained from the agency that provided the survey?
  • Should the survey form capture information about the services provided to victims within a given timeframe?
  • How should the survey be disseminated to ensure maximum response?
  • How should the survey address the wide variation in victim service programs in terms of types of victims served, types of services provided, and the ways services are delivered?
  • How could the survey format and method of implementation make victims comfortable and motivated to complete the survey?

Survey Development

The victim survey needs to capture both quantitative and qualitative information about services, including the types of assistance received, whether services were easily accessible, victims' experiences with the criminal justice system, satisfaction with services received, referrals provided (to shed light on interagency coordination), and assistance that victims needed but did not receive.

The Right Tool

PM Builder: Instrument Development Checklist and Sample Serves a good example of a survey instrument, with accompanying instructions for setting it up.

In This Toolkit: Intake and Outcome-Based Form (Word) Offers a series of data collection forms and a victim survey.

Form for Evaluating Police Response to Rape and Sexual Assault Helps evaluate the response of law enforcement officers to victims of rape and sexual assault.

The survey should include a title, introduction, directions, and questions (including questions related to demographics). The survey's title should be clear and concise and reflect its content. The introductory statement should identify the survey's purpose, explain confidentiality, and state how the data will be used. When creating directions for the survey, it is important not only to describe how to complete the survey but where and how to return it. The actual survey questions can be a combination of types (e.g., scale, category, checklist, yes/no, open-ended) but should be limited to questions that are necessary. Putting demographic-related questions last on your form will increase the probability that they will be answered.

Here are some more tips for developing victim surveys:

  • Keep the survey short (no more than three pages).
  • Use plain and simple language (avoid jargon).
  • Explain the purpose of the survey.
  • Ensure confidentiality.
  • Provide multilingual copies.
  • Include the following sections:
    • Background of assault: Year and location, whether the crime was reported, and so forth.
    • Victim experience: Victims' experiences with victim services, law enforcement, forensic examiners/health care, campus health care, Indian Health Services, criminal justice, community social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and so forth.
    • Comments: A section for victims to explain how they were treated.

You can survey victims at the conclusion of services, as part of a mid-service evaluation, or at any time you think it is appropriate. To improve your response rate, consider conducting surveys in person rather than allowing participants to complete the surveys at home.