Research ethics in victimization studies: widening the lens

Violence Against Women. 2011 Dec;17(12):1489-508. doi: 10.1177/1077801211436167.


Research ethics, especially the protection of research study participants, has been an enduring concern of investigators and scholars of victims of violence. Previous work has analyzed the overt and hidden risks of harm to study participants through poorly designed and implemented protocols, cross-cultural insensitivity, unjust exclusion of certain victim types, and neglect to ensure safety of research staff. This article extends this work by calling for greater attention to exploiting participants and victims as a class of persons. The need for this wider view derives from concern about the academic research environment with its emphasis on research, publication, and extramural funding. The authors argue that compliance with federal regulations and IRB directives is necessary but insufficient to conduct truly ethical research. Recognition of the unique pressures that researchers face in the context of the economically competitive university is required to delineate and manage exploitation risks. Such pressures have sometimes led to the rush from print to practices and policies with unintended harmful results for victims of violence as a class of persons. The authors suggest a number of strategies for researchers to define and manage the dangers of engaging in this type of unethical conduct.

MeSH terms

  • Crime Victims*
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Social Sciences / ethics*
  • Spouse Abuse*