History of the Project

In early 1996, Virginians Against Domestic Violence (VADV) and Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault (predecessors of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance) met with the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Health to discuss the issue of data collection among domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers. The four agencies agreed that their data collection systems provided only minimum information about the numbers of victims and services provided and had a number of problems that limited the data's ability to provide useful information about interpersonal and sexual violence in Virginia.

The four agencies agreed to apply for Virginia Violence Against Women Act funding to initiate an integrated statewide data collection system for domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers. They agreed that VADV would be the lead agency for the project, would apply for the grant, and would provide staff support. All four agencies agreed to enter into cooperative agreements for the development of the project, called VAdata. The Department of Criminal Justice Services awarded funding, and the VAdata project began in April 1996.

A multidisciplinary Advisory Committee guides the coalition on issues related to the future of VAdata and is responsible for the development of the system and its data collection tools and the publication of statewide reports. Domestic violence programs and sexual assault crisis centers across Virginia also participate in the development and pilot testing of each phase of VAdata. In April 1999, agencies across the state began pilot testing the system. By October, VAdata was the official data collection tool used by the majority of domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers in the Commonwealth. In October 2000 the first statewide report highlighting the first six months of data collected in the system was published. In 2001, the first statewide annual report was produced. Since its inception, the coalition has published an annual report each year as well as a five-year data review and aggregate report in 2005. To learn more about VAdata's Reports, please click here.

VAdata Upgrade

In 2005, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance conducted a comprehensive evaluation of VAdata. The evaluation included a review of current data collection tools, an analysis of data reports from 2000-2004, and focus groups with current users on the effectiveness of VAdata and revisions needed to enhance the system. The evaluation took two years to complete and resulted in numerous recommendations, including the development of new data collection tools that would more effectively capture the experiences of both sexual and domestic violence, and the addition of a case management component to the system. The Action Alliance staff worked throughout 2007 to develop the new tools, redesign the system, and ensure access to pre-2008 data once the new system was launched. On January 1, 2008, the Action Alliance launched the new system and every active VAdata user transitioned from the old system to the new without interruption.

VAdata Gets Outcomes - Documenting Our Work

For several years, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence tested the types of data that could be collected from domestic violence victims across the country - data that could be used to evaluate domestic violence services and to inform the public how domestic violence services are helpful to victims. The project is called “Documenting Our Work” (DOW). On October 1, 2009, the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act (FVPSA) administrators of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services required each state to submit a new set of data about services provided by domestic violence programs and a new set of data about the outcomes of those services based on the initiative.

In Virginia, VAdata made it very easy to meet the new service data requirements. All of the new FVPSA required data were already collected in the VAdata system. What was new to Virginia was the DOW data collected directly from domestic violence victims who had used domestic violence program services.

The VAdata Advisory Committee studied the tools provided by DOW and made the decision to implement “Documenting Our Work Virginia” (DOW-VA) but requested that Virginia modify survey tools. The decision to modify the data collection tools was an effort to minimize the burden on both survivors and local community programs. The Advisory Committee also decided to create tools that could be used by both sexual violence and domestic violence agencies. Two surveys were developed for DOW-VA: the Community-Based Services Survey, to be offered to adult survivors who have received face-to-face advocacy services (either sexual or domestic violence) on three or more occasions; and the Shelter Services Survey, to be offered to adult residents once during their shelter stay.

Virginia launched DOW-VA statewide on April 1, 2009.