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Researching Sexual Revictimisation: Associated Ethical and Methodological Issues, and Possible Solutions

Authors

  • Nadia Wager

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Human Sciences and Law, Buckinghamshire New University, Bucks, UK
    • Principal Lecturer, School of Human Sciences and Law, Buckinghamshire New University, Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP11 2JZ. Tel: (Office) 01494 522141 (ext. 3285)
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Abstract

This paper has been inspired by the processes of preparing for ethical scrutiny and seeking ethical approval for a series of studies examining causal mechanisms that might facilitate sexual revictimisation. The focus here is on just four of the issues that arose in the context of the first study: a web-based survey. One of the aims of the survey is to test whether victims of child sexual abuse who experienced a period of psychogenic or dissociative amnesia demonstrate an exaggerated risk for adolescent/adult sexual assault during this amnesic phase. That is, cases where survivors report ‘suddenly remembering’ in adulthood that they were abused as children, but state that prior to this ‘remembering’ they had no prior knowledge of their abuse. The study design is considered to be the first ethical issue. To enhance the methodological robustness a strategy has been employed to reduce the erroneous inclusion of currently amnesic participants in the non-abused comparison group. Secondly, consideration is given to the likely harms and benefits that might be incurred or bestowed upon the participants. Thirdly, problems of both re-traumatisation and vicarious traumatisation in relation to the researcher are contemplated and juxtaposed against the possibility of the facilitation of post-traumatic growth and a personal shift towards wisdom and generativity. Finally, the survey title was originally criticised as negating ‘fully’ informed consent and a defence is therefore offered that ultimately gained ethical approval. It is hoped that these deliberations and insights may prove useful to others in planning their own research and ethics proposals.

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