Experiences, Challenges, and Lessons Learned — Interviewing Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence

Judith Herrmann


Research involving survivors of sexual violence requires particular ethical and safety considerations. In this article I outline challenges that I encountered when preparing and conducting interviews with female survivors of sexual violence in Rwanda. My research design was informed by phenomenological and feminist approaches, which assisted in sensitising me to and addressing matters specific to my fieldwork. Besides methodological issues deriving from the role of a qualitative researcher, the challenges included identifying and inviting participants, managing logistics relating to the interviews, researching in another language, building rapport with interview participants, referral to support services, and self-care. In this article, I discuss what I did to overcome these issues, making reference to existing literature and training that helped me in preparing for my fieldwork. Summarising my experiences, I provide a list of key experiences and lessons learned at the end of the article, aiming to help researchers prepare for their work with vulnerable groups. I also highlight a number of ethical issues that I perceived as particularly challenging and suggest that they require further discussion in the future.

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