International evidence on involving young people in participatory research on sexual violence

Posted: Tue Nov, 2018

Author: Silvie Bovarnick and Delphine Peace


Involving children and young people in participatory research on sensitive topics is a challenge for many researchers. This is particularly true when research engages children and young people beyond ‘research subjects’, for instance, as co-researchers in a collaborative study. 

In August 2018 we published the Being Heard report: findings from an international scoping review on the engagement of children and young people in participatory research on sexual violence. The Being Heard report results from a collaborative project between the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and the International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire. 

Children and young people can provide a unique inside perspective on sexual violence affecting them. Yet, they rarely play a key role in producing knowledge on the issue. Children and young people’s meaningful involvement in sexual violence research can enhance the evidence base and inform responses that are more closely aligned with the realities, needs and wishes of those affected.

The Being Heard report focuses on promoting children and young people’s voices in sexual violence research. It discusses a range of ethical and practical challenges of involving vulnerable children and young people in participatory research on sensitive issues. While some relate to children and young people’s age-specific vulnerabilities, many of the issues discussed in the report highlight the complexities of undertaking participatory research more generally. 

The report tackles a number of key questions that many researchers struggle with:

  • What is participatory research and what are the different ways of involving children and young people in it?
  • What are the benefits of using participatory approaches?
  • When are participatory research methods appropriate?
  • What are the specific challenges of undertaking participatory research on sexual violence?
  • What are the barriers that prevent researchers from adopting participatory approaches in this field?
  • How can sexual violence research involve vulnerable children and young people safely and meaningfully?  

The report draws out key considerations for research practice on a range of aspects such as emotional wellbeing, managing risk and providing training and support. 

Report: The report is available here, on the Our Voices Resources page under ‘Research and consultation reports’. 

Webinar: Join the Being Heard webinar on 21 November 2018 at 12:00 GMT [view corresponding times online] to hear more about the findings of the review. The webinar is held in collaboration with SVRI. To register please email

The webinar will be recorded and made available on SVRI's website