There are two main purposes for a community needs assessment, the first is to determine what services are being provided to survivors of sexual assault currently. Is anyone providing medical forensic examinations or are patients transferred to another community for care? Are services provided to patients of all ages, or is there a need for a program with pediatric examiners? What other services are available, such as rape crisis or agency victim advocates?
The second purpose is to estimate the number of patients who would be seen by a new program. When looking at potential numbers, it is important to gather information from all groups that provide services to survivors. This would include surveying law enforcement and advocacy, realizing that those two groups may have very different numbers.
Who is Your Community?
Some Examples of Hidden Communities
The next part of a community assessment is listening to members of the community in order to identify who lives there. Do members of your community report sexual assault? If they do, are they able to receive services? Start looking for information about who lives in your community by looking at reports from the U.S. Census Bureau. These reports may include information such as racial or ethnic populations. Census reports can also provide the proportion of community members in different age categories. It is important to look for groups that may not be adequately represented in a Census report. To look for these "hidden" community members, contact community-based service providers. For example, how large is the homeless population in your community? Is there an LGBTQ advocacy center? Does your community have a college or university whose students are not counted as residents of the community? To find out who lives in your community, connect with faith-based and other organizations that represent cultural groups. Once you have a picture of who lives in your community, it is important to compare that picture with the numbers of victims that are being identified by victim service providers. Do the two groups match? For example, if you live in city where 25 percent of the population is Latino but only 2 percent of reporting sexual assault victims are Latino, how do you explain that difference? Is there less sexual assault in the Latino community or less reporting?
Knowing who lives in your community enables your program to provide culturally appropriate care and to make sure that connections are made to encourage victims of sexual assault to seek services.