“Being heard” - Promoting ethical and meaningful participation of children in research on sexual violence


Sexual and intimate partner violence in childhood and adulthood are profound public health problems affecting millions of children and women at every age and stage of their lives. One in five women and one in 10 men report being sexually abused as children, whilst one in three women will experience sexual and/or physical violence from an intimate partner violence in their lifetime (WHO, 2013).

The considerable evidence showing strong associations between specific early risk factors and later aggression and violence has triggered a burgeoning research agenda on testing the effectiveness of interventions to address these early risk factors, with an increasing number of studies involving children and youth people.

Children and youth participation in research on sensitive topics is a challenging issue for many academic researchers. The active involvement of children in the research beyond their role as subjects of research has been a notable gap in research presented at SVRI Forums, as was the absence of young people among Forum delegates. These gaps reflect a need for capacity building work with researchers, programme developers and policy-makers on the importance of involving children in research; methods for asking children about violence; and the ethics of involving children in research on child abuse and neglect.  This project aims to address these gaps.

Project Aim

Being Heard aims to promote the active and ethical engagement of young people in research on sexual violence.

The objectives are to:

  1. Expand and strengthen SVRI’s global network of practitioners and academics’ understanding of child rights based approaches, strategies, policy and models to prevent sexual violence against children (SVAC);
  2. Build the knowledge and develop the skills of SVRI members and affiliates to undertake participatory research on SVAC.


These objectives will be achieved through a global scoping of participatory research on SVAC and the production of guidelines for researchers engaging children and young people in research on sexual violence. The second area of activity is to bring a group of young researchers (i.e. young people who have direct experience of sexual violence and have been engaged in research activities) to the SVRI Forum 2017 through a system of bursaries.  The young researchers will share their experience with Forum members and participate fully in the Forum – which will focus on participatory research as its main theme.  This work will be undertaken by SVRI in collaboration with an NGO partner in Rio.

Project Management

“Being Heard” is a collaborative project between the SVRI and Bedfordshire University’s International Centre: researching child sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence.

The project is guided by a Project Advisory Committee and supported by the Oak Foundation and the South African Medical Research Council and other partners.

Project Outputs:

Being Heard Webinar: Engaging Young People in Sexual Violence Research and Events. 21 November 2018, 2pm-3pm SAST.

Being Heard: Engaging young people at SVRI Forum toolkit. Sexual Violence Research Initiative, SAMRC, Pretoria. 2018.

Being Heard: Promoting children and young people’s involvement in participatory research on sexual violence – findings from an international scoping review. Bovarnick S, Peace D, Warrington C, Pearce J. University of Bedfordshire. 2018.

Being Heard video: Engaging youth at SVRI Forum 2017

Being Heard video: Minimum Standards for Youth Participation at SVRI Forum 2017

Being Heard webinar: Involving children and young people in participatory research on sexual violence - challenges and approaches, 01 December 2017




Young Researcher’s Participation in SVRI Forum 2017 

Other materials and resourcesvideos and webinars on engaging youth                                                                                                                    

      Oak Foundation         International Centre researching child sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence