New How-To Guide For Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Posted on August 14, 2013 by Rose Anderson
Recently the U.S. media has been full of accounts of rampant sexual violence and intimidation across all branches of the U.S. military. In Egypt, we hear how sexual violence is used against female activists during and around protests in the country. A major reason these systemic human rights violations are coming to light is because brave survivors of sexual violence were willing to speak out and share their experiences.
For years WITNESS has worked with activists campaigning to end gender-based violence globally. We know that it can be incredibly painful to share a personal experience of sexual violence. Many survivors of rape in the U.S. military cited fears of their stories being brushed aside, not having their voices heard, of being attacked again. We also know that it is also challenging to ask someone to share his or her experience with you on film. Through our work, it became clear there was a need for guidance on how to conduct these interviews safely, effectively and ethically.
Today we are proud to announce a new training resource: Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews with Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence. It includes considerations and guidance for anyone setting out to interview survivors. The tips are organized into stages of preparation for the interview, during the interview, after the interview and special attention is given to ensuring the safety and security of interviewees.
The Guide is intended for human rights activists, citizen witnesses, citizen journalists and professional journalists and anyone else who might be conducting interviews with survivors. It is currently available in English with translations coming soon in Afrikaans, Arabic, Shona, Spanish, and Zulu. An earlier version is available in Swahili.
Here’s an overview of what is included in the Guide:
Before You Begin:
- Remember the fundamental principle of using video for human rights: do no harm, directly or indirectly, to an interviewee in the process of documenting their story.
- Consider the lasting impact that sexual violence can have on an individual, and be fully considerate of your interviewee’s comfort and perspective.
Get more tips for Before You Begin in the Guide
Before Interview Day:
- Identify your interviewee and take time to get to know him/her to build rapport.
- Create questions in advance that respect the interviewee’s dignity and comfort and uses terminology that is appropriate.
Get more tips on Before Interview Day in the Guide
Safety and Security:
- Ask your interviewee what is the worst-case scenario possible? For example, what if the interviewee’s perpetrator or community sees the video and recognizes them? What types of risk could this expose them to?
Get more tips on Safety and Security in the Guide
On Interview Day
- Obtain your interviewee’s informed consent.
- Set up your shots and sound for best quality – while respecting your interviewee’s personal space when arranging shots and placing microphones.
Get more tips on Interview Day in the Guide
After Interview Day:
- Get your interviewee’s feedback on the interview process.
- Share any needed contact information for a counselor or other resources.
Get more tips on After Interview Day in the Guide
Acknowledgments and Feedback
This guide, like all of our endeavors at WITNESS, came together with the help, insight and support of many individuals. In particular we’d like to thank the following for their contributions and review of this resource: Marija Tosheva, Kudakwashe Chitsike, Elana Newman, Violeta Krasnic, Amy Hill, and Benje Douglas.
Stay tuned for an accompanying training video that will go deeper into some of the ethics and best practices for interviewing survivors.
If you are looking for a language other than those listed above or if you can help translate the Guide, please email us at training [at] witness [dot] org.
Finally, this is Version 1.0. We expect and hope for feedback, suggestions, and contributions that will allow us to enhance and further develop this resource. Please share your comments below, or send them to training [at] witness [dot] org.