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Develop a comprehensive and harmonized data system

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • The establishment of a secure and accurate data system is important to properly document, respond and manage reported cases of violence. Alongside systematic and survivor-centred case management practices, proper information and records management is essential for improving institutional response capacity and can be a valuable tool for internal accountability and performance monitoring.

  • The development of a comprehensive data system can generate key information on:

    • The frequency and incidence of different forms of violence reported

    • The groups (and locations) at risk as well as perpetrators, which can help plan targeted interventions and inform security plans and policies of violence

    • Staff compliance with key case management procedures and protocols (e.g. protocols on response, investigation, interviewing, victim protection, etc.)

    • Case attrition throughout the process – reporting, investigation, referral to the courts, prosecution – which can help identify the obstacles to justice

  • Law enforcement personnel (or military where relevant) should record standardized data related to each incident. Where there are no uniform data collection measures in place across the institution, each facility should standardize the type of data collected and format in which it is recorded and filed.

  • To minimize the risk of retraumatizing women and girls, only data that is relevant for filing a report or investigating the case should be collected (using appropriate interviewing techniques). This data should include the following:

    • Administrative information

      • Date and location of report

      • Contact details for person reporting (if separate from survivor)

      • Names of staff dealing with the case (from patrol, investigation, etc)

    • Survivor information

      • Identity (e.g. name, identification code, birthday, sex) and contact details

      • Physical and emotional state of survivor during interview (to ensure the survivor’s immediate medical and psycho-social needs are met, which may also contribute to court evidence, if she chooses to pursue a case)

    • Details of the incident
      • Type of incident (ideally, according to a guided checklist or agreed typology of forms of violence)

      • Date and time

      • Location(s)

    • Alleged perpetrator information
      • Identity and contacts of suspect(s)

      • Relationship between victim and perpetrator(s)

      • Details of any prior allegations of offences committed by perpetrator

      • Whether perpetrator has a legally registered firearm

    • Action taken and follow-up plans

      • Medical treatment (including forensic exam or referral if agreed) and any other services provided to survivor (risk assessment, safety planning, referral to shelter, hospital, etc.), including dates/ contact persons for each

      • Details of evidence collected (e.g. photos of injuries/ crime scene, interview dates/transcripts, forensic evidence and investigation results, etc.)

    • Assessment/case review

      • Police referrals to other institutions/ services with dates (victim advocate, medical care, mental health services, parole, prosecutor’s office, others)

      • Status of witness testimony (available/ documented) and evidence collected (e.g. forensic test results)

(UNODC, 2010, IACP, Sexual Assault Supplemental Report Form; GBVIMS. Standard Intake and Assessment Form)

  • The confidentiality and security of data should be prioritized when developing record management systems. Manual or paper files should be locked and computerized files should be password protected; all records should only be accessible by the personnel directly involved with the case. Record security is also important to protect a woman’s identity and contact details, since the case information can be used to locate and intimidate the victim or witness(es), putting the survivor at greater risk of violence, or to destroy or tamper with evidence. Procedures to improve confidentiality of information may include creating a unique identification code for each case to be used for facilitating de-identifiable follow-up and management of cases. This is particularly important in small communities or where there is a risk of confidentiality breaches by police personnel themselves.

  • Data system security should be planned around the infrastructure and processes for collecting and managing case records over time. For example, where offices lack computers or in communities with irregular electricity, a combination of a manual and computerized system may be used where data is collected manually at the individual police station or military post and regularly submitted to headquarters, where it is entered into a computerized system for broader analysis and reports.

  • At the community level, security facilities should aim to develop, integrate or coordinate (in the longer-term) a single integrated computerized data system, which is linked with other key actors in the referral network (i.e. health, justice, shelter, and other service providers). A harmonized data system enables accurate and more efficient collection of case data, improves the effectiveness of case monitoring, and ensures survivors receive relevant support services across sectors in a timely manner. This should also reduce the number of times they must repeat details of their abuse, which can retraumatize survivors. An integrated data system should be based on a streamlined data entry template where a unique case identification number is attached to each reported case and used by all service providers. Different service providers can record all the relevant information about the case and attach information and documentation to the file. Such data systems may also be developed at the national level, but take time to develop and require investment in training personnel as well as building infrastructure (e.g. computer systems which are compatible to ensure data and files can be read/accessed across institutions).

  • Data collected locally should be streamlined for integration into national databases for tracking and monitoring gender-based violence crimes. Different systems may be established for distinct forms of violence or the information may be compiled within a single database disaggregated by the various forms of violence.

National Database Examples:

Violence against Women Primary Database (Afghanistan)

The Violence against Women Primary Database in Afghanistan was launched in 2006 under the coordination of the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA), with support from UNIFEM, in collaboration with the Departments of Women's Affairs in all 34 provinces nationwide, with technical and logistical support, direct involvement in reporting from various entities including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, the courts, Women Shuraas, Provincial Council, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Referral Center, Save the Children, legal assistance providers and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Data entry is initially completed at the provincial level, with forms subsequently sent to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The database registered 1,011 cases covering various forms of violence (e.g. verbal abuse, rape, forced engagement, sexual harassment in public, etc.) between May 2006 and October 2007, which is presented in its 2007 report, along with additional information and analysis of the cases recorded, as well as an overview of media coverage and policy recommendations on the issue.


Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (United States)

Coordinated by the United States National Department of Justice, in collaboration with state, territory and tribal authorities that have sex offender registries for their respective jurisdictions, the National Sex Offender website features an advanced search tool that allows a user to obtain information about sex offenders; and provides a listing of public sex offender registry websites by state, territory, and tribe; and information on sexual abuse education and prevention. The information can be used to assist police enforce orders of protection as well as provide information to community members on convicted sex offenders in their area. The database illustrates the integration of local data sets into a national system, with information for the national site provided by the local authorities (Department of Justice, Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website).

  • At a regional level, it is also useful to develop a system for collecting and monitoring data on specific forms of violence, such as trafficking. However, such data may be particularly challenging to collect given the dearth of accurate national level data and various barriers related to under-reporting to officials, weak information sharing structures, and differing methodologies between states. While a variety of secondary research databases have been compiled on trafficking in different regions, there remains a gap in primary data on the issue.

Illustrative Example: In 2000, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) developed the Counter-Trafficking Module, the largest global database on registered victims of trafficking. By the end of December 2009, the database had captured primary data on 13,809 registered victims of more than 85 different nationalities trafficked to more than 100 destination countries. Initially developed as a case management tool for IOM personnel involved in direct assistance with trafficking survivors, the database has received recognition as a valuable research and policy-making tool and has been used by the organization for further analysis of trends, patterns and other research on the issue. The database includes information on: the socioeconomic profile of victims; the profile of traffickers; trafficking routes; patterns of exploitation and abuse; nature of assistance provided; and instances of re-trafficking, with strict controls in place to ensure the privacy and protect against identification of survivors, as well as maintaining the security and confidentiality of the data. The database continues to evolve, with IOM providing support to governments and external organizations to develop their own case management database. Read more about the database.  


Key Tools

Sexual Assault Guidelines: Supplemental Report Form (IACP. 2008). This form is for police personnel to in the reporting, recording and investigation of every alleged sexual assault incident, with supervision, although is not meant to be used for child victims. Based on the context in the United States, the form may be adapted as relevant for other settings. Available in English.        

Standard Intake and Assessment Form (IASC GBVIMS, 2010). The intake form is one of numerous resources available on the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System website developed to assist service providers in humanitarian settings to better understand GBV cases being reported as well as to enable actors to share data internally across project sites and externally with agencies for broader trends analysis and improved GBV coordination. Available, through free registration, in English.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Resource Centre (National Institute of Justice). This resource centre features intake forms used in the United States for various agencies (including law enforcement) to record cases of domestic and sexual violence. Available in English.

The IOM Handbook on Direct Assistance to Victims of Trafficking (International Organization for Migration, 2007). This handbook is for practitioners and others providing direct service support to survivors of trafficking. It comprises seven chapters, which can been read as a whole or as separate pieces covering the following topics: security and personal safety for both personnel and survivors (including guidance on collecting and managing confidential data); screening of victims of trafficking; referral and reintegration assistance; shelter guidelines; health and trafficking; cooperation with law enforcement authorities and appendices on ethical principles in caring for and interviewing trafficked Persons, an interview checklist; and a glossary of key terms. Available in English; 356 pages.

Domestic Violence Intake Form (Turkish Police, 2007). This intake form, developed in collaboration with UNFPA, provides guidance for police to document incidents of domestic violence. Guidance for using the form is provided in a training video developed for the police. Available in Turkish.