Interviewing a survivor of SGBV on video can be extremely powerful–and extremely challenging. That’s why WITNESS is developing this new resource.
First-person testimonies put the ‘human’ into ‘human rights,’ and the ‘story’ into ‘storytelling.’ Firsthand accounts from those directly affected by human rights violations create a bridge of understanding between the viewer and a reality that might seem distant and abstract. And these accounts are especially powerful for sharing the often-silenced stories of individuals who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence.
Take, for example, the powerful testimony of Asimo Sipola in No Longer Silent: Women from the Greater North Demand Livelihood and Psychosocial Support produced with Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and the Greater North Women’s Voices for Peace Network in Uganda.
“At the time when I was abducted by the LRA, I was a very young girl of 12 years and so many things happened to me. The worst experience, especially for girls, was rape. They said if we were old enough to menstruate, we were old enough to get a man. They would heat a machete until it became red hot. If you refused a man, they placed the hot machete on your back. They beat the back repeatedly with the machete until you accepted him as a ‘husband.’”
No Longer Silent: Women from the Greater North Demand Livelihood and Psychosocial Support was produced by WITNESS, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, and the Greater North Women’s Voices for Peace Network in Uganda.
How are we able to hear Asimo Sipola’s story? It all started with an interview. It can be extremely challenging to capture an interview that conveys a powerful story in a clear way, while also respecting the rights and dignity of the interviewee. We have learned much from cases around the world in which this has been done really well. And we have learned much from partners over the years who have experience working and conducting interviews with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
We have combined these lessons learned with practical filming and interviewing best practices to create a new WITNESS resource guide: Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence. This guide is intended for human rights activists, advocates, citizen witnesses, citizen journalists, and others conducting interviews with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Each of the guide’s sections presents crucial steps and considerations in the interviewing process. For example, the “Before Interview Day” section contains preparations one should make well before setting out with a camera. Among other things, interviewers should research the topic and appropriate terminology, meet and build rapport with the interviewee, and assess and mitigate safety and security risks applicable for everyone involved.
This guide is in its final stages of development and will be released in the coming weeks. If you would like to receive this resource as soon as it is available, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.