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Perceptions and Experiences of Research Participants on Gender-Based Violence Community Based Survey: Implications for Ethical Guidelines
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Author: Yandisa Sikweyiya et al.

by Yandisa Sikweyiya, Rachel Jewkes


To explore how survey respondents perceived their experiences and the impact of participating in a survey, and to assess adverse consequences resulting from participation.


Qualitative study involving purposefully selected participants who had participated in a household-based survey.


This qualitative study was nested within a survey that investigated the prevalence of gender-based violence perpetration and victimization with adult men and women in South Africa. 13 male- and 10 female-in-depth interviews were conducted with survey respondents.


A majority of informants, without gender-differences, perceived the survey interview as a rare opportunity to share their adverse and or personal experiences in a 'safe' space. Gender-differences were noted in reporting perceptions of risks involved with survey participation. Some women remained fearful after completing the survey, that should breach of confidentiality or full survey content disclosure occur, they may be victimized by partners as a punishment for survey participation without men's approval. A number of informants generally discussed their survey participation with others. However, among women with interpersonal violence history or currently in abusive relationships, full survey content disclosure was done with fear; the partner responses were negative, and few women reported receiving threatening remarks but none reported being assaulted. In contrast no man reported adverse reaction by others. Informants with major life adversities reported that the survey had made them to relive the experiences causing them sadness and pain at the time. No informant perceived the survey as emotionally harmful or needed professional support because of survey questions. Rather the vast majority perceived benefit from survey participation.


Whilst no informant felt answering the survey questions had caused them emotional or physical harm, some were distressed and anxious, albeit temporarily. Research protocols need to put in place safeguards where appropriate so that this group receives support and protection.