How the CDC defines and classifies sexual violence

Content note: explicit descriptions of sexual violence, including rape.

The Asexual Community Survey has asked questions related to sexual violence since 2015. In the 2018 survey, we expanded these questions in order to more closely match those in the 2010 Summary Report on the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) produced by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the CDC’s definitions of sexual violence are publicly available in the NISVS report, few lay people would sift through over a hundred pages in order to find them. The lack of easily accessible information concerns us, because it deprives some victims of tools they need to understand their own experiences. The goal of this article is to explain the CDC categories and their use in the 2018 Asexual Community Survey.

Disclaimer: Some readers may be surprised by how their personal experiences are classified by the CDC. We will not tell anyone that they are wrong to classify their personal experiences in any particular way, and readers are free to view the CDC’s definitions as imperfect, incomplete, or incorrect. Even if readers agree with the definitions, they may find some other description of their personal experiences to be more salient.

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