Too often, the skill of really listening to another person’s story does not receive the consideration and training it deserves. Yet skilled and sensitive listening in a research context can not only produce a wealth of information and in depth knowledge, but also enrich both the researcher and the person they are talking with. This paper discusses the barriers to communication faced by those who experience gender based violence, the essential elements in building trust and encouraging informants and the challenges and rewards of actively listening to those whom we encounter in qualitative research.
The Domestic Violence Research Group (DVRG) conducts national, international and local studies on domestic violence and on other forms of violence against women. It also offers consultancy, teaching and training on the issue and works from an activist perspective. The DVRG works alongside Women’s Aid. It is a principal national organisation working with abused women and their children, and has links in the activist movement in the country and abroad. The principles of the DVRG were derived from their long history of involvement with feminism and from an understanding of violence against women as a manifestation of inequality in society between men and women. This chapter evolved from an edited Round Table discussion on the ethics and sensitivities involved in researching domestic violence and other forms of violence against women with a group of researchers associated with the Domestic Violence Research Group (DVRG). The chapter addresses a number of ethical issues that arise in the course of conducting research. Although the focus is on social science research in the area of violence against women, the issues raised in this chapter are also transferable across a number of subject and disciplinary boundaries. From the potential impact of externally enforced governance, this chapter identifies those factors that, from the researcher’s perspective, influence their interactions with research participants. The chapter also considers the positive and negative impact of practice on the conduct of research including the route of these contradictions which needs to be based on the realities of each project, the integrity of individual researchers, and a wider discussion about the purposes, role and governance of research in society.