Exploring the use of language to describe people who have experienced sexual violence.

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Sociology


There is an unresolved, recurring debate within social science
and literature regarding appropriate terms to label those who
have experienced sexual violence. Since the 1980s, 'victim'
has been slowly replaced within feminist discourse by the
emergence of the term 'survivor'. However, recently this term
has been critiqued as creating a 'survivor identity' that expects
people to focus on their ability to cope with their experiences
and their strengths, which may undermine the harm they have
suffered. In response, some researchers have adopted the
term 'victim-survivor' to encapsulate people at all stages of
their 'journey,' as a negotiated term. However, there has been
little empirical research on how and why these different terms
are used in policy, practice, and by those who have
experienced sexual violence themselves - nor on the
implications of such terms. Semi-structured interviews will be
conducted with practitioners who encounter service-users who
have experienced sexual violence. These practitioners occupy
an important role in the labelling of those who experience
sexual violence, and they will be able to offer insights into how
they use labels and why they choose to use them. Further
interviews will also be conducted with those who have
experienced sexual violence to understand their unique
perspectives on which terms they use to describe their own
identity. This research will work in collaboration Survivors West
Yorkshire and Darlington and Co. Durham Rape and Sexual
Abuse Crisis Centre (RSACC).


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2198193 Studentship ES/P000762/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Laura Jane Hepworth