What are the Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys?

Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys are nationally representative household surveys of males and females ages 13 to 24 that measure violence in childhood.

The Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) are led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the Together for Girls partnership. The surveys measure the prevalence, past 12-month incidence, and circumstances surrounding violence in childhood and young adulthood (before age 24).

 

The VACS measure multiple forms of violence: sexual, physical, and emotional. The surveys also provide important data on risk factors, protective factors, and consequences of violence.

 

VACS results are published in national reports, used in the development of national action plans, and guide effective programs and policies. Learn more about the VACS below, and access all of the publically available reports here.

What Information Does the VACS Provide?

The VACS provide strong, reliable evidence on sexual, physical, and emotional violence among children, adolescents, and young adults. The questionnaire includes questions on the following survey topics:

  • Background (e.g. demographics, socioeconomic status, education)
  • Gender attitudes related to violence
  • Perception of safety
  • Witnessing violence
  • Violence victimization
  • Violence perpetration
  • Health risk behaviors—including HIV risk
  • Health outcomes—including physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health outcomes (e.g. unintended pregnancy)
  • Service seeking and utilization after experiencing violence

VACS Materials and Resources

VACS Overview Handout

VACS Questionnaire Handout

VACS Country Reports

VACS Country Questionnaires

Learn all about the VACS, including background on the process for implementation. Available in English, French, Spanish, and Swahili.

Learn about the updated questionnaire, including new modules for Latin American countries.

Access all published VACS Reports from more than 15 countries, as well as publically available data sets.

View the male, female, and head of household questionnaires in the Together for Girls Resource Bank.

Who Implements the VACS?

At the country level, the implementation of the VACS is led by the national government, with CDC providing technical support. This approach embeds the VACS in national structures in order to enable ownership, build capacity, and lay the groundwork for a comprehensive response once the data become available.

 

Depending on the country, Together for Girls partners (in addition to CDC) may play a critical role.

  • UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are invaluable in supporting the task force to coordinate the surveys and response efforts, ensuring wide participation across sectors and facilitating the transition to action when the surveys are completed.
  • U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Government of Canada, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) make critical financial and technical contributions to implementing the VACS.
  • Other partners, such as UN Women, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) provide important technical contributions to the VACS and to the ensuing response at the country level.
Indonesia-fieldwork-deployment-1-2-1024x683

VACS interviewers in Indonesia before data collection in 2013. Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Howard, CDC. Read Ashleigh’s synopsis of 10 Things You Should Know About the VACS

5 Hondurasv jpeg

The First Lady of Honduras, Ana García de Hernández, presents the VACS Report at the official launch event with government and partner representatives. Photo Credit: Office of the First Lady of Honduras. Read about the launch of the Honduras VACS report.

What is the process for implementing a VACS?

  • STUDY DESIGN: The surveys include a randomly selected, representative subset of 13-24 year olds, providing estimates of violence by age group, sex and other demographic factors. All data are collected through in-person interviews with trained interviewers.
  • SUPPORT AND SERVICES FOR PARTICIPANTS: Due to the sensitive nature of the questions in the surveys, and possible strong emotional response or current risk, all countries develop a referral plan and resource list that allows interviewers to link participants to support and services.
  • ETHICAL REVIEW: The VACS adheres to globally established ethics and safety protocols—with typically two levels of ethics reviews: the U.S. CDC Institutional Review Board and the in-country ethics body.
  • FIELDWORK DATA COLLECTION: Data collection for the VACS takes approximately 4–6 weeks in each country. Male interviewers conduct interviews with male participants and female interviewers conduct interviews with female participants.

How can the VACS be accessed?

Public access to the data can provide an opportunity for researchers to expand on the use and application of the data. Many of the datasets from the VACS are available for public use—usually one year after the launch of the report.

Cambodian school children standing in doorway of classroom in small village near Tonle Sap, Cambodia.

PARTNERS