The Sexual Violence Research Initiative is working to build an evidence-base for research on various aspects of sexual violence. Researching and working with sexual violence survivors can be difficult. The most effective way to support and encourage more research on sexual violence is to develop and retain a skilled research workforce. Literature and models on how best to support sexual violence researchers in different countries and contexts is limited. Listening to stories of pain and trauma can impact researchers both physically and emotionally. The effects of being indirect witnesses of trauma and abuse can result in secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma.
Vicarious Trauma is defined as the transformation of the researcher's inner experience as a result of empathetic and/or repeated engagement with sexual violence survivors and their trauma material (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995)]. Vicarious trauma is a process which impacts on different people in different ways. The impact on researchers is related to the trauma they are exposed to, their own characteristics and history, the research methods they use, their support systems, and the context in which they do their research. In recognition of the need to respond to the impact of researching sensitive topics and develop strategies to support the research team to identify, manage and where possible prevent vicarious trauma, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative has developed a briefing paper, researcher handout and co-hosted a workshop on the topic. A preconference workshop on vicarious trauma and doing research on sexual violence was also held at the SVRI Forum 2011.
Through this webpage we are also providing a database of available materials on trauma and doing research on sensitive topics. To contribute additional materials on this topic please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.