SART TOOLKIT: Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams
Develop a SARTPrint Print

Collect Data

Without consistent information about the number of victims affected by sexual violence, your ability to respond is limited in several ways:

Gathering data can help you identify gaps in services. Baseline statistics can underscore the need for a SART, assist you with setting goals and objectives, aid future funding requests, and inform researchers and policymakers of trends that need to be addressed. The data collection process can also be a catalyst for developing and building partnerships with key responders. Just as important, data collection is the foundation for evaluation—a process for assessing effectiveness even while your SART is taking form.

Consider the following steps before collecting data:

National Database

The Sexual Assault Resource Service collects national victim data to identify SANE programs' strengths and weaknesses, improve their evidence collection, and enhance prosecution rates in future cases. If you participate in the SANE program national database, the Sexual Assault Resource Service will—

  • Provide data collection software.
  • Provide analysis of your data free of charge.
  • Provide national aggregate data for comparison purposes.
  • Assist you with developing a system to collect followup data on your clients (e.g., rape kit evidence results, legal case outcomes).

Data Collection in Cuyahoga County

To organize its data collection, Cuyahoga County Coordinated Community Response created a discipline-specific subcommittee with a contact person from each core discipline in the jurisdiction. Over time, as the contributing agencies learned how valuable the data were to them, the list of data elements grew and became increasingly more useful.

Source: William Sabol, Leadership and the Implementation of the Coordinated Community Response Initiative in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, 2001.

Start by collecting basic data—those data elements that are most easily accessible. Once your SART is well established, consider expanding the types of data collected. (To help you map minimum and expanded data elements, see Sexual Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements.) To ensure the reliability of data, avoid complex forms with easily misunderstood phrases, including forms designed to collect information that will never be used. Also, ensure that individuals entering the data have sufficient time and training to complete the entries accurately and fully.

This section reviews how to—

Gather Interagency Data

The Right Tool

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Resource Center Summarizes how states are collecting data, the kinds of information they collect, and national and state projects related to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Information is power. SARTs have multiple opportunities to augment their individual and collective power by accessing, collecting, and sharing information electronically.1

Ideally, you should pull data from multiple sources so that you can compare and contrast the information. In addition to collecting and analyzing response data, you can also use data to determine staffing needs in order to expand outreach. Staffing needs are an ever-present issue in many states. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, but many large cities also face chronic staffing shortages and service gaps. Once you collect, synthesize, and analyze data, you can evaluate external factors (e.g., shifting client needs, increased competition for funding dollars) that influence the resources your SART needs and develop strategies to overcome challenges and meet emerging needs.

Federal Data Standards Versus State/Local Practices

States often find themselves caught between federal data standards and state and local practices. Improved data reporting efforts should address crime complexities and piggyback other reporting systems to avoid repetitive data entry or incompatible information sharing.

Source: James Zepp, Domestic and Sexual Violence Data Collection: A Report To Congress Under The Violence Against Women Act, 1996.

This section reviews—

Which Data To Collect

To understand the scope of sexual assault in your jurisdiction, you must pull together data from—

Be realistic when determining which data to compile. The following chart provides a glimpse of data elements to consider.

SART Agency Statistics

Community Advocacy

  • Number of victims served who reported to law enforcement.
  • Number of victims served who didn't report to law enforcement.
  • Type of assault (e.g., rape, sexual battery).
  • Number of community referrals.
  • Information about victims (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, disability).
  • Relationship of perpetrators to victims.
  • Number and types of services provided.

Law Enforcement

  • Number of cases assigned for investigation.
  • Types of assault (e.g., rape, sexual battery).
  • Number of cases submitted to the district attorney for review.
  • Number of cases prosecuted.
  • Location of sexual assaults.
  • Information about victims (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, disability).
  • Information about perpetrators (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, disability).

Health Care

  • Number of forensic medical examinations performed.
  • Information about victims (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, disability).
  • Type of assault (e.g., rape, sexual battery).
  • Number of victims seen at campus health services.
  • Number of victims seen at Indian Health Services.
  • Number and types of services provided.
  • Number of health care providers subpoenaed to testify.

Forensic Laboratory

  • Number of sexual assault forensic medical collection kits processed by crime labs.
  • Data on quality of evidence collected by forensic examiners.
  • Data on quality of evidence collected by law enforcement.

Victim Witness
Assistance Center

  • Number of cases referred to community-based services.
  • Information on victims (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, disability).
  • Number and types of services provided.


  • Number of cases referred by law enforcement agencies annually.
  • Number of case filings.
  • Number of plea negotiations and sentences.
  • Number of trials.
  • Number of cases by disposition (e.g., guilty, not guilty, no contest, mistrial).

How To Share Data

When you collect interagency data, it is important to share that data among participating SART agencies. The following tips should help guide you in setting up an information-sharing process:

The tips above were originally developed for the juvenile justice system but have been adapted for consideration by SARTs.2

Gather Community Data

As indicated in the Community Mobilization Manual,3 you can collect community-based data—

Victims Not Served

Sexual assault victims do not live in a vacuum; any data collected on victims should take into account individual factors that could restrict access to services and leave victims without recourse. For example, the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA 2000) requires grantees to report on the effectiveness of activities carried out with grant funds, including the number of persons served and number of persons seeking services who could not be served.

Situations in which victims seek services but are not served could arise when4

When collecting data, it is important to consider victims who may not be served because they never sought services. This includes individuals who did not report their sexual assaults to law enforcement or victims who do not attempt to access services due to disability, religion, homelessness, institutionalization, multiple service needs, or ethnic or cultural reasons. For example, a battered woman may not disclose sexual assault when transported to a hospital emergency department with obvious physical injuries. Or, a deaf victim whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) may be required to use a text telephone (TTY) to receive service delivery. ASL concepts are not always readily translated into words through TTYs, which may limit a deaf person's ability to request and obtain services.

To help determine which victims are not currently served—

Needs Assessments

Conducting a community needs assessment enables you to seek candid and diverse views on issues before considering and implementing solutions. The information gathered can provide you with guidance on the most appropriate methods for addressing service gaps. There is no single right way to conduct a needs assessment. However, the following steps can help you draft a practical survey that complements your community's specific makeup:5

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

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:

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.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are indepth interviews with groups of people designed to identify specific issues. Whereas needs assessments and victim surveys help communities determine a course of action once a problem or issue has been identified, focus groups help uncover problems or issues that may not be recognized.8 Listening as people share different points of view provides a wealth of information—not just about what they think, but why they think the way they do.

Begin planning the focus group meeting at least 1 month in advance, and make sure to start with clear and measurable goals when developing the meeting agenda. Limit participation to 6–12 individuals and the timeframe from 90 minutes to 3 hours. To generate meaningful group discussions, focus group facilitators must be able to separate themselves from the topics at hand, maintain complete objectivity, and have no hidden agendas that will affect the outcomes.9

Facilitation Tips
  • Ask an opening question—either a very general question about violence or a specific question about sexual assault.
  • Summarize what you think you have heard and ask if the group agrees.
  • Rephrase participant's questions.
  • Ask probing questions.
  • Make eye contact with each member in the group, especially with those who may not have spoken.
  • When all questions have been asked, and before the group ends, ask if anyone has any other comments to make. This strategy can be useful in gathering other opinions that have not yet been voiced.
  • Tell the members about any next steps that will occur.

Source: Work Group for Community Health and Development, "Conducting Focus Groups," The Community Toolbox.

Town Meetings

Town meetings, also called public forums, should be hosted at different sites around the community to ensure diverse and equal representation. These meetings allow participants to express their views about key issues and discuss what can be done about them. In North Dakota, for example, representatives from law enforcement, health care, advocacy, and forensic laboratory fields hosted public hearings throughout the state. The outcome from the meetings reinforced the need to develop a protocol for collecting the evidence of sexual assault and to create a forensic medical evidence collection kit to ensure that evidence is consistently collected and stored correctly.

Select a site for the meeting that is easy to find, accessible, and comfortable, such as a library or educational facility. Advertise and invite participants to forums by posting fliers and developing public service announcements and press releases. If you want the media to attend the hearings, you must publicize the likelihood that media may be present to ensure that participants understand beforehand that confidentiality is not guaranteed. You also can invite community agencies and organizations to attend, such as victim service agencies, mental health facilities, public agencies that may assist sexual assault victims (e.g., victims' compensation boards), medical facilities and associations, educational institutions, legislative offices, and ethnic, religious, and cultural organizations.

A public hearing—or even a series of public hearings—provides an opportunity for each segment of the community to participate in the development of your vision and mission. (See Create a Strategic Plan, the next section in this toolkit, for more information about creating vision and mission statements.)

Sample Agenda

I. Welcome/Opening Remarks

Description of the extent of sexual violence in the region and invitation for participants to express their views.

II. Statement of Need

SART member testimonials.

III. Statement by Elected Officials

Endorsement for SARTs.

IV. Open Forum
(3–5 minute limit per speaker)

  • What are the problems with the response to sexual violence?
  • What are the consequences?
  • Who is affected?
  • How are they affected (e.g., physically, economically, emotionally, spiritually)?
  • How can victim advocates, health care, and legal professionals help? What other community agencies would help?
  • What services would help victims over the long term?

V. Closing Remarks

Summary of comments and next steps.

Compile Data Reports

The interpretation of interagency statistical data, community needs assessment surveys, victim surveys, focus group findings, and town meetings goes beyond simply tabulating the results. The data need to be evaluated to determine what the results mean, patterns that occur, and your SART's proposed next steps. Summarizing the data by writing an executive summary and comprehensive report will help you capture a broad scope of issues. The data report can be organized into sections:

Reports are rarely read cover to cover, so it is important to start with the most important information. You also need to explain what is known that was not known before and how the new information will help improve your multidisciplinary response. To enhance your report's credibility, list any limitations of the findings or alternative explanations for them.


Collecting Evaluation Data: An Overview of Sources and Methods       
Covers sources and methods of data collection.

The Community Tool Box
Provides resources for identifying local needs and resources, conducting public forums and listening sessions, collecting information, conducting focus groups, conducting needs assessment surveys, identifying community assets and resources, developing baseline measures, determining service utilization, and conducting interviews and surveys.

Dawn Ontario DisAbled Women's Network
Includes a comprehensive table of contents for accessing information about various technologies, such as computers and assistive/adaptive technologies, and frequently asked questions.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Collection Systems in the States, Final Report
Describes law enforcement and service provider databases at 12 sites and recommends using offense and relationship codes that are compatible with the National Incident-Based Crime Reporting System (NIBRS), developing initiatives to analyze and validate data being collected, and developing linkages among the various state data systems that collect sexual assault information.

Evaluating Data Collection and Communication System Projects Funded Under The STOP Program, Executive Summary
Highlights the most common uses of STOP grant funds for data collection. The research concludes that accurate and reliable data systems are an essential element of coordinated community responses.

In This Toolkit: Intake and Outcome-Based Form (Word)
Includes various data collection forms, such as those dealing with accompaniment data, crisis intervention, education, followup data, hotline data, peer and therapeutic counseling, volunteer trainer data, volunteer data, and client satisfaction data.

INFONET: The development, implementation, and operation of a web-based information system for victim service providers in Illinois
Describes how agencies use data, the way the INFONET system is structured, and critical issues.

Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Communications Interoperability: A Guide for Interagency Communications Projects
Provides a background on communication interoperability and tools for carrying out technology initiatives.

Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Information Technology Security: How to Assess Risk and Establish Effective Policies
Provides strategies, best practices, and recommendations for developing and implementing security policies for information technology. The manual can help SARTs identify and assess interagency security risks.

Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Small and Rural Police Agencies: A Guide for Executives, Managers, and Technologists
Offers strategies, best practices, recommendations, and ideas for successful information technology planning and implementation for small and rural police agencies.

Managing Agency and Community-change Initiative Data: Guidelines for Software Selection
Covers organizational steps for data management, timetables, types of software, and customizing data.

National Association for Justice Information Systems
An organization of individuals responsible for acquiring, operating, and managing local, state, and federal criminal justice information systems.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 21: Innovative Technologies and the Information Age
Describes how technology enhances services for victims and service providers, the benefits of and barriers to using innovative technologies, and promising technological practices.

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

Quick Health Data Online
Provides state- and county-level data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Data reports are available by gender, race, and ethnicity and come from various sources. Categories include demographics, reproductive health, violence, prevention, disease, and mental health.

Rape in the 50 States
Reviews the prevalence of rape in each of the 50 states. The report includes an estimate of the number and percentage of adult women who have been raped, a comparison of the magnitude of the problem in each state with that of the Nation at large, and a discussion of factors that increase the risk of being attacked.

SANE Program National Database
Assists SARTs in setting up procedures for obtaining important feedback information, evaluating results, and comparing results to those in other regions.

Tips for Getting Technology Funding
Discusses six ways to improve the prospect of getting technology funding.

Using Technology To Enable Collaboration
Summarizes the collaborative effort and needs assessment that were critical to the conception and development of an online resource directory, an online training center, and an automated, online client case management system. The bulletin describes technology components and their implementation and suggests how communities can develop and maintain the same or similar technology-based initiatives.

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Data Collection System
Enhances and improves the collection of statewide data from all victims who use the services of local domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers.


1 Office for Victims of Crime, 2002, "Innovative Technologies and the Information Age," chapter 21, National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

2 Office for Victims of Crime, "Innovative Technologies and the Information Age."

3 Kansas Sexual Assault Network, 2005, Community Mobilization Manual, KS: Kansas Sexual Assault Network.

4 Office on Violence Against Women, 2008, Semi-Annual Progress Report For Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program(sample form), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

5 Work Group for Community Health and Development, nd, "Assessing Community Needs and Resources," The Community Tool Box, Lawrence, KS: Work Group for Community Health and Development.

6 Laura Taylor, Developing a Sexual Assault Response Team: A Resource Guide for Kentucky Communities, A86. Cases that were not reported to authorities include those in which a forensic medical legal exam is performed. Other cases could include those not pursued because victims chose not to assist with prosecution.

7 Office for Victims of Crime, 2002, Denver Victim Services 2000 Needs Assessment (The Client Satisfaction Survey), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

8 Derek Okubo, 2000, The Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Handbook, Denver, CO: National Civic League.

9 Office for Victims of Crime and OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center, nd, Strategic Planning Toolkit, Washington, DC: Office for Victims of Crime, T2–32.

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