For example, “the percentage of women (over the total number of women) who have experience rape/sexual assault during the last year” is an indicator of prevalence of sexual assault/rape. Indicators should be so clearly defined that they cannot be interpreted in more than one way.
Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting, Indicators to measure violence against women.
(See: Bloom, Shelah, Violence Against Women and Girls: A Compendium of Monitoring and Evaluation Indicators; Ertürk, Yakin,The Next Step: Developing Transnational Indicators on Violence Against Women; and Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists)
For example, the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) program MEASURE DHS began to collect information on the prevalence of domestic violence against women in the early 1990s and has developed a standard domestic violence module of questions. Although this module is typically used to obtain information from women on their experience of violence, a few countries have recently used it to obtain information on violence against men.
The DHS Domestic Violence Module collects information on the following indicators:
Today, information on the prevalence of intimate partner and sexual violence is available in over 99 countries.
Case Study: Monitoring Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean through Comparative Analysis of Population-Based Data
In 2012, Pan American Health Organization released a comparative analysis of data procured in national, population-based surveys—Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Reproductive Health Surveys (RHS)—on the prevalence and consequences of violence against women in the Latin American and Caribbean Region (LAC). The report compares 13 RHS and DHS surveys from 12 different countries through the LAC region between the years of 2003 and 2009, and combines the data in order to produce a more comprehensive representation of violence against women in the LAC region.
Conducting such a comparative analysis required a methodology which both recognized and accounted for the varying definitions and processes used to study violence against women in the LAC region. The report therefore chose only surveys that 1) conducted face-to-face interviews and 2) gathered data on violence against women, ages 15-49. Each chosen survey was then examined in its original language in order to produce a general list of indicators (e.g. the prevalence of physical violence by intimate partners) that were addressed. For each indicator, a spreadsheet was created which included verbatim questionnaire items from each survey instrument and detailed information about the logistics of the survey (e.g. number of women interviewed, number of questions asked during each interview).
The spreadsheets were used to identify points of similarity and difference amongst the surveys, and operational definitions, denominators, and included acts were adjusted to maximize the comparability of the data. Minor survey differences are noted in the analysis for each indicator. Any major differences resulted in the researchers either excluding the data from the report or using it to create a separate indicator. Finally, limits to the comparative analysis are noted. In particular, the availability of services for women who had been physically or sexually abused and the relationship between ethnicity and violence were not comparable indicators.
General methodological issues, relevant to all indicators, were addressed in the introductory chapters. These issues included the standardization of definitions of “violence” and “partner” and the classification of time frames, marital or partnership status, and residences. Moreover, methodological sections explained how the examined surveys were fitted together for comparative purposes. The compared DHS and RHS surveys included both general questionnaires, which were designed to collect data on general demographics and reproductive health, and a violence module, which was designed to ascertain the prevalence and severity of violence against women. The violence module also included common risk factors associated with the violence. For both the general survey and violence module, RHS surveys interviewed one randomly selected woman per household. DHS surveys, on the other hand, interviewed all eligible women in a household for the general surveys. However, for the violence module, 4 DHS surveys only interviewed one randomly selected woman from each household.
Specific methodological issues for each indicator were addressed within the corresponding chapter. Each chapter therefore begins with a methodology section that details how that indicator was constructed and categorizes the types of measurements, questions, and definitions used in the compared surveys. If notable distinctions are present, the report clarifies how those distinctions were accounted for when conducting the comparative analysis. Throughout the report, verbatim examples from surveys are used to reinforce the explanation of each indicator.
In its conclusion, the report found that the strongest and most consistent predictors of experiencing physical or sexual intimate partner violence were partner separation or divorce, a higher number of live births, and childhood exposure to domestic violence. The most common triggers of violence included alcohol or drug use, jealousy, work problems, sexual rejection, and family or financial problems. The report called for more research regarding the prevalence and risk factors associated with child abuse and sexual debut. Moreover, the report concluded that studies should develop comprehensive strategies for studying the association between types of violence and multiple generations simultaneously.
Sarah Bott, Alessandra Guedes, Mary Goodwin, Jennifer Adams Mendoza, “Violence Against Women in the Latin American and Caribbean Region: A Comparative Analysis of Population Based Data from 12 Countries,” Pan American Health Organization and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012).
Monitors should utilize the following indicators developed by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, in 2008 to monitor the government response to violence against women and girls:
From: Indicators on violence against women and state response, page 19.
These indicators should be reflected in the methodology designed by the research team. Questions should be developed which reflect each of these areas. See: Section on sample methodology.
CASE STUDY: Identifying Indicators and Using Experts to Refine Focus of Monitoring: United States’ 2010 State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Cards: A National Survey of Teen Dating Violence Laws (2010). The authors of this multi-state monitoring report, the NGO Break the Cycle, worked with legal professionals to identify indicators used to monitor the access of teenagers to civil protective orders based upon their experience in working directly with teenage clients. Indicators used included:
The authors also worked with public health researchers from the University of Minnesota to revise the grading criteria used in previous reports to focus more closely on the aspects of civil protective orders that are most relevant to teenage victims of domestic and dating violence. For example, they reviewed state laws to determine the inclusion of the types of abuse teens are likely to experience, such as stalking, harassment, and digital abuse, and the most relevant remedies for teenage victims of violence. By involving legal professionals with direct client service expertise and experts in the public health of youth, the authors made a strong and well-directed case for legal reform in many states of the United States.
Future reports will grade states on school response to dating violence and on youth access to sensitive services such as reproductive health services. Break the Cycle, 5.