Tags: GAO | Federal Agencies | Split | Definition | Rape

GAO: Federal Agencies Can't Settle on Definition of Rape

Image: GAO: Federal Agencies Can't Settle on Definition of Rape

Sen. Claire McCaskill. (AP Images)

By    |   Friday, 19 Aug 2016 10:58 AM

In 2011, somewhere between 244,000 and 1,929,000 Americans were victims of rape.

According to the General Accountability Office, the vast delta in that range is symptomatic of a larger problem within agencies of the federal government — they're split on how to define rape.

"These differences can lead to confusion for the public," the watchdog reported.

In its July report, done at the behest of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the GAO found that four federal agencies manage at least 10 different efforts to collect data on sexual violence and use 23 different terms to describe sexual violence.

"For example, the same act of sexual violence could be categorized by one data collection effort as 'rape,' whereas it could be categorized by other efforts as 'assault-sexual' or 'nonconsensual sexual acts,' among other terms," the GAO said in its report.

The four agencies identified by the GAO:

  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Justice

"Differences in data collection efforts may hinder the understanding of the occurrence of sexual violence, and agencies' efforts to explain and lessen differences have been fragmented and limited in scope," the GAO reports.

"Differences across the data collection efforts may address specific agency interests, but collectively, the differences lead to varying estimates of sexual violence."

The GAO recommended that the Depts. of Education, HHS, and DOJ make information that is included in their measurements of sexual violence publicly available.

It also recommended that Office of Management and Budget establish a federal inter-agency forum on sexual violence data. While the Depts. of Education, HHS, and DOJ agreed, the OMB didn't.

"OMB stated that convening a forum may not be the most effective use of resources at this time, in part because the data collection efforts are not far enough along in their research. However, OMB said it will consider convening or sharing information across agencies in the future."

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In 2011, somewhere between 244,000 and 1,929,000 Americans were victims of rape.
GAO, Federal Agencies, Split, Definition, Rape
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2016-58-19
Friday, 19 Aug 2016 10:58 AM
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