World Health Organization: Women Risk Safety to Participate in Studies on Violence against Women
Thursday, December 8, 2011 4:00 PM

A recent panel discussion at the Pan American Health Organization, an office of the World Health Organization, addressed gender-based violence resulting from participation in social research. The conversation on how to conduct research on violence against women highlighted safety concerns for both participants and researchers alike.

Since the 1990s, the body of research on violence against women has grown significantly. Participant Mary Ellsberg, Vice President of Research and Programs at the International Center for Research on Women, stated that two “big truths” surfaced with the research. First, research on violence against women is a major factor in achieving change. Policy makers, planners, and advocates all utilize the research to highlight the health, economic, and social costs. The very act of conducting the research raises awareness of the issue, which has “changed laws and people’s lives and has been deeply empowering. . . .”

However, the second “big truth” is that participation in research on violence against women has “inherent risks.” Merely participating in the research places subjects and researchers at risk of violence. In order to combat this reality, the panel members advocated for “complete privacy” for participants in such research. This should include: concealing the purpose of the interview from family and community members, providing “dummy” questionnaires to use as decoys, and keeping all responses completely anonymous unless there is explicit and full informed consent.

Compiled from: "Researchers Seek to Ensure Safety of Women in Studies of Gender-Based Violence," SVRI: Sexual Violence Research Initiative List Serve (08 December 2011); Researchers Seek to Ensure Safety of Women in Studies of Gender-Based Violence, Pan American Health Organization (06 December 2011).