Intersectionality and Invisible Victims: Reflections on Data Challenges and Vicarious Trauma in Femicide, Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Research

February 3, 2021 | By Patricia Cullen, Myrna Dawson, Jenna Price & James Rowlands

Journal of Family Violence

Rigorous, comprehensive and timely research are the cornerstone of social and transformative change. For researchers responding to femicide, family and intimate partner homicide, there are substantial challenges around accessing robust data that is complete and fully representative of the experiences and social identities of those affected. This raises questions of how certain social identities are privileged and how the lens of intersectionality may be constrained or enabled through research. Further, there is limited insight into the emotional labour and safety for researchers, and how they experience and mitigate vicarious trauma. We examine these issues through a shared critical reflection and conclude with key recommendations to address the challenges and issues identified. Four researchers examining and responding to femicide, family and intimate partner homicide in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom shared and evaluated their critical reflection. We drew on our experiences and offer insights into processes, impacts and unintended consequences of fatality reviews and research initiatives. There are substantial limitations in accessibility and completeness of data, which has unintended consequences for the construction of social identities of those affected, including how multiple forms of exclusion and structural oppression are represented. Our experiences as researchers are complex and have driven us to implement strategies to mitigate vicarious trauma. We assert that these issues can be addressed by reconceptualizing the goals of data collection and fostering collaborative discussions among those involved in data collection and violence prevention to strengthen research, prevention efforts and safety for all involved.

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