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Prevalence research

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Conducting prevalence research typically involves the use of a questionnaire to carry out structured interviews with a sample of a population; the results of the interviews are then used to represent information about the circumstances of an entire population.  Prevalence research on VAWG can be a valuable method for better understanding the nature and scope of VAWG once programmes are established enough to provide support and referrals services to participants. The methodology used for conducting the research should be informed by previously developed techniques –and follow ethical standards and recommendations such as those developed by the World Health Organization for conducting research on VAWG— in order to reduce the potential for danger to participants and researchers and increase the potential for positive outcomes (Ward, 2004b).
  • However, conducting prevalence research raises numerous ethical considerations, such as assuring the security and safety of the participants and the researchers as well as maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of survivors.  (See Principles for Conducting Assessments.) In addition, dedicated population-based surveys are often time-intensive and require a larger amount of financial and technical resources, including superior technical competence for their design and implementation. However, it is particularly challenging in conflict or emergency contexts because of the lack of necessary infrastructure, or the availability of even a reliable census to develop a sampling frame, further complicated by population movement and displacement. Prevalence research is therefore not recommended as a method for collecting data on VAWG at the early stages of emergency response, especially in settings where few services (and thus, few referrals for research participants) exist.


Additional Resources

For more information about prevalence surveys in humanitarian contexts see Ward, J. (Ed).  2004b.  GBV Tools Manual for Assessment, Program Design and Program Monitoring and Evaluation.  RHRC Consortium. New York, p. 129.  

Alliance DARC. 2006.  Documenting Sexual Violence In Conflict: Data And Methods – An Annotated Bibliography

Johnson et al/American Medical Association. 2010. Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Françoise Roth, Tamy Guberek, and Amelia Hoover Green. "Using Quantitative Data to Assess Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Colombia: Challenges and Opportunities." A report by the Benetech Human Rights Program and Corporación Punto de Vista. 22 March 2011.

Tia Palermo and Amber Peterman, “Undercounting, overcounting, and the longevity of flawed estimates: statistics on sexual violence in conflict”. Bulletin of the World Health Organization (2011).

Also see section on Research in Programming Essentials.