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Evaluation of Pilot Study: What is the Impact of gender-based violence against women in the University of Durham, England on the individual health and well-being?


Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights that causes long-term effects on both the victims and the survivors. Humanitarian actors and human rights activists continually make efforts from the beginning of an emergency to respond and prevent acts of gender-based violence while providing adequate treatment, care, and support to the victims. This pilot study aims at exploring the impact of gender-based violence against women on their health and well-being in the University of Durham, England, in response to the growing attention towards such acts. This study focused on violence towards women since they are an easy target compared to men; women are culturally perceived as the weaker gender by society. Although men are subjects of gender-based violence, societal demands and subjugation of female rights make women easier target to rape, assault, and violence from the males who are considered of higher power and value culturally. This pilot study will go by Yount, Krause, and Miedema, (2017, p. 10) assumptions that gender-based violence is an occurrence that is rooted deeply in gender inequality and a significant violation of human rights in the society. This phenomenon is often directed against an individual based on their gender. This study will use the words “violence against women” and “gender-based violence” interchangeably to mean acts of violence against women that are founded on power inequalities between men and women.

This pilot study is founded on the premise that gender-based acts are some of the most common forms of violence with adverse effects on the health and well-being of women and girls in various parts of the world. This act is often characterised by conflict, assault, forced displacement, the breakdown of the rule of law, and the collapse of a family, which results in increased frequency and brutality of such acts (Wirtz, Poteat, Malik, and Glass, 2018, p. 38). The desire to undertake this study has been driven by the increasing level of gender-based violence against women at the University of Durham in England. Woman are harassed and assaulted by their partners, by non-partners while others are abducted for forced marriages and rape. Gender-based violence is a violation of humanity and destructive vice to the growth and productivity of women in society.

Aims and Objectives

The study aims at ascertaining whether gender-based abuse on girls and women increases the likelihood of poor health and well-being of women at the University of Durham, England. The study tested individual forms of violation as well as compounded forms, although Kleve, Davidson, Booth, and Palermo (2017, p. 26) states that many forms of violence against women are inter-related. This pilot study aimed at exploring whether the findings made by Wirtz, Poteat, Malik, and Glass (2018, p. 79) that women in abusive relationships are likely to reencounter experiences of poor health, low confidence, and diminished self-esteem. The potential relationship between low fertility in women who experience assault and violence in the relationships warrants further studies.

Research Questions

The research questions that guided the study were based on individual experiences on gender-based violence (GBV) at the University of Durham on their health and well-being.

How do women express GBV at the university?

What is the impact of gender-based violence against women at the University of Durham, England?

What are the most effective strategies to end GBV?

Methodology Section

This pilot study adopted a cross-sectional study after review and approval by the faculty at the University. The researcher adopted a mixed-method approach on a sample size of 4 participants, whereby observation, ethnographic approaches, and in-depth interviews were used. The sample size was collected from students and seniors at the University who composed of women between the ages of 18 years to 60 years.

Individual and group interviews were implemented to facilitate the faster acquisition of information. However, individual interviews were implemented more to promote the confidentiality of personal information and facilitate openness with the respondents. Formal and informal interviews were conducted on the participants to eliminate the restrictions associated with each methodology. The formal interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes, most of which adopted a semi-structured schedule. The results were recorded formally and transcribed verbatim (Peter, 2018, p. 5). Informal interviews were of greater significance in that the respondents were more flexible and open with their answers. The researcher carried out visits at the beach and nearby locations that deemed relaxing – such as rivers, trails, and parks – with a calming effect such on the respondent. According to Greener (2011, p. 27), the choice of interviewing location can have a significant impact on the respondent’s openness and comfort during the section. The researcher took advantage of observation of individual behaviour during the interview and how they reacted when sensitive topics such as violation were mentioned. Considering that some respondents were mean with information, the research made use of ethnographic research to improve the quality and quantity of data collected. This included the use of social media analytics, scrapbooks, online diaries, eye tracking, and discovery forums

The researcher adopted the use of interviews as opposed to focus groups on facilitating personal negotiation of gender violence and gaining personal views on how violence affected their behaviour. As Fletcher (2017, p. 190) explains, the use of focus groups would be less effective, considering the sensitivity of the topic, which could reduce the participation and response from the respondents. Besides, publicised answers on gender-based violence and its impact on abortion would cause decreased sensitivity of the topic by normalising the acts stated in the discussion. Before the interview, the researcher sought consent from the respondents and explained the importance of the pilot study. Parental consent was obtained from parents and guardians of one participant whose age was below 25 years. Older participants were informed of the importance of the research study to their well-being. Formal and informal interviews were adopted, whereby various questions on past experiences were embedded. The criteria employed in the interview study entailed partner violence, productivity, and their association with violence.


During the pilot study, the interviewers remained blind to the information provided by the respondents until the end of the interviewing process. This was done in a bid to reduce the chances of researcher bias in the interview. The results obtained can be summarised in relation to the research questions adopted.

How do women express GBV at the university?

During the pilot study, the participants noted that violence against women was evidenced in the University, at workplaces, and in their homes. It was noted that although GBV is a common practice in amongst religions, cultures, and economic wealth, some groups such migrant women, LGBTs, and women from minority groups were considered as the most vulnerable. One respondent stated that the most common form of violence against women at the University was between intimate partner. She noted that she has endured violence with her intimate partner although she was afraid of facing stigmatization. There were high chances of violence against intimate partners which was categorised under psychological, sexual, and physical violence (Wirtz, Poteat, Malik, and Glass, 2018, p. 19). The violence had severe direct and indirect health consequences on their health and well-being. Participants noted that although intimate partner violence is constantly condemned at the facility, many people consider it a private matter and blame the cause of violence on the women. Passing the blame on women created stigma and facilitated discrimination which caused the girls and women to deter from seeking legal redress and medical services.

It was noted that violence against LGBTIs individuals was rampant due to high levels of discrimination and stigma. One respondent at the University explained that violence against LGBTI women was mainly categorised under hate crime, which resulted from victimisation based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation (Ilika and Ilika, 2017, p. 17). As a lesbian, she observed that violence towards was based on the notion of threating the traditionally honoured norms of femininity and masculinity. Most of the time, she was often predisposed to what was deemed as “corrective rapes.” Although she has never been a victim of forced marriages and gang rapes as a form of corrective measure, the respondent was keen to explain that she had undergone several rape instances with friends who wanted to convert her. However, although the victim was affected severely, the reporting rate was diminished due to fear of secondary victimisation that could facilitate delayed desire to seek healthcare, psychosocial support, and criminal justice services.

Trafficking of women at the institution was considered an act of violence against women. Women and girls trafficked from the University of Durham were often moved to foreign countries to increase the chances of exploitation (Baldwin, Brunsdon, Gaudoin, and Hirsch, 2018, p. 97). One respondent noted that a friend was abducted earlier on and her disappearance has since been forgotten. It was noted that the activity was a complex web in that the traffickers often worked in a global phenomenon to transport victims. A victim of trafficking at the university stated that women are often violated in various ways whereby some become prostitutes and participate in drug trafficking, among other practices. An LGBT stated that she was abducted to serve as a lesbian although she managed to escape. However, she had not reported for fear of death and victimization.

What is the impact of gender-based violence against women at the University of Durham, England?

From the interviews conducted at the facility, it was noted that violence against women threated family structures in that it caused children to suffer from emotional damage. One stated that she was a victim of gender violence in that she was forced into parental roles and had to struggle against negative social roles to feed herself and her family. Most complained about psychological scars that impacted negatively on their performance and productivity at the University. This effect trickled down to their jobs and families, most of which were dysfunctional. The respondents noted that victims of abuse often accepted violence as a form of communication and conflict resolution, an aspect that caused the growth of the practice amongst the students. Violence against women affected their health and well-being and caused the development of illnesses, which were often related to depression and anxiety, among other mental disorders. One of the respondents stated that past violent experiences in an intimate relationship affected her reproductive health and productivity at the societal and individual level. She stated that she was forced to terminate several pregnancies that caused diminished her reproductive status.

What are the most effective strategies to end GBV?

There was an overarching need to protect women and bring justice to survivors at the University of Durham. The respondents noted that to prevent GBV, the University should strengthen legal and policy frameworks while enhancing response services for the survivors. The management should support various programs and projects that are aligned with the priorities of partners to end GBV. Considering that GBV is founded on gender norms and gender-based inequalities, one respondent stated that prevention strategies should be linked to efforts that increase gender equality. Through a discussion of women rights, a respondent noted that women should be provided with increased opportunities to participate in politics to influence the concerns of peace and conflicts at the facility. Women should be provided with equal opportunities with men at all levels of leadership at the University (Burt, 2019 P. 190). In addition, efforts to enhance their economic empowerment and their bargaining power to leave an abusive relationship should be enhanced. It was noted that the University should support their employment opportunities and increase sexual and reproductive health rights.

Evaluation of the Research Methods Used

This part of the pilot study will evaluate the methods that were adopted. The researcher will present the advantages and disadvantages of the methods used, including the formal and informal interviews as an ethnographic observation.

Gender-based violence is a socially constructed vice that was founded from individual, societal, and organisational norms and perceptions about women. To understand the phenomenon, the researcher avoided the adoption of quantitative approaches that would limit the information collected. As an idealist who believes in improving relations amongst people, the researcher employed the use of in-depth methodologies which consisted of qualitative approaches. There was a need to understand the thoughts, concepts, and experiences while gathering in-depth insights on the topic of gender-based violence (Voloder, 2008, p. 30). This prerequisite made it exceedingly necessary to adopt a research method that dealt with words and meanings such as interviews, discourse analysis, and focus groups (Bazeley, 2018, p. 335). However, the use of focus groups was limited to increase the respondent’s openness and protect user information. Although people exist and thrive in the realist world that is messy and complicated, the researcher believes that the adoption of an idealist approach in life would reduce gender-based violence on women.

Critique of Methodologies

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Methods

The researcher adopted an ethnographic study that combined qualitative interviews with the observation of respondents to obtain deep content that facilitates the understanding of the research topic. The use of ethnographic methodology is characterised by rich, meaningful data that is full of in-depth insights on the topic to facilitate further understanding (Davidson, Edwards, Jamieson, and Weller, 2019, p. 370). This methodology provided the researcher with a comprehensive perspective on the research topic in that she was able to observe behaviour in its natural environment. It provided the researcher with the ability to account for the complexity of various participant behaviours in a manner that revealed interrelationships amongst various dimensions of interactions. According to Greenhalgh et al., (2016), observation and field notes and observation coupled with interviews, provides great detail, which enabled one to reflect on the obtained data and insights.

However, although ethnographic research served the researcher the aspired aims and objectives, the results were mostly dependent on the interpretations and observations of the researcher. This methodology is prone to researcher bias, which is very difficult to eliminate. This methodology may lack transferability, and it is difficult to confirm the validity of the study concluded. Although this study provides in-depth insights, ethnography is time-consuming, and its accuracy is dependent on the researcher’s experience, beliefs, and preconceptions. O’Byrne (2007, p. 1390) warns that researchers who adopt the use of observation coupled with qualitative interviewing should be aware that their thoughts can influence their position in the field in a manner that affects the validity of presented information.

Without proper sample selection, it can be challenging for the researcher to find conclusive data (Meo, 2010, p. 160). The sample choice was based on student experiences and their exposure to issues that are associated with gender-based violence. The researcher approached students who seemed open on issues that dealt with women-oriented violence. The study was not involved in any form of rigorous sampling since the focus was on specific research context. Although the use of traditional research methodologies provided in-depth data, it was subject to preconceptions and familiarity that could prevent the researcher from identifying the normal practices associated with violence against women.

Difficulties Encountered

The researcher adopted ethnographic analysis which is a mixed-up approach that is based on a facilitative process. Although the investigator aimed at achieving a comprehensive description of the concepts, the perspective used in one method facilitated the understanding of the other procedure. This aspect had a challenging effect on the research in that, issues encountered in one method could trickle to the other procedures. The researcher realised that the search for scientific meticulousness impacted on this adopted approach negatively, which caused the diminishing of the importance of context, understanding, and depth. Although research by Freedman (2016, p.25) shows that mixed-approach affects understanding due to its intersubjective and interpersonal nature, the attempt to defame the approach is unfounded considering the findings made by the researcher to explore the participants. The researcher made a successful attempt to collect useful content to understand the reason behind the increasing level of gender violence at the University. However, the researcher experienced challenges with data collection, logistical issues, and the ability to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the respondents. In the beginning, identifying and recruiting viable participants was difficult due to the familiarity and trust issues at the facility. Being a student at the institution, familiarity made it easy to access most victims, although confidentiality issues curtailed their desire to provide information. According to the respondents, it would be easier for the researcher to expose them since she was well connected and known in the institution. As a leader in the University, my position facilitated the feeling of unequal power relationship (Eisenach and Yaksh, 2016, p. 899) whereby the respondents felt pressured to provide answers that deemed of value to their image and reputation – an aspect that affected the quality and validity of the collected data. However, the researcher postulates that her familiarity and presence created safe grounds to build trust while providing safe grounds for the participants to feel protected.

Ethical Concerns

Ethical considerations are important aspects of every research procedure (Greener, 2011), whose importance cannot be negated. The researcher was aware of the need to promote anonymity, consent, safety, and researcher autonomy. At the beginning of the study, the researcher obtained informed consent by proxy from university management. After that, consent was sought from the willing participants, most of whom were considered of the right age to make the most viable decision. The privacy of the respondents and informed consent are important ethical concerns (Greener, 2011) that must be promoted at all costs. Although it was difficult to obtain informed consent from all participants – particularly those whose observation was the main form of data collection – those who participated in the interview were informed of the importance of the task. Some of the participants were not aware that they were being observed which served as an ethical dilemma. The privacy of the participants was promoted in that personal information was numbered in a manner that protected their identity from the public (Baldwin, Brunsdon, Gaudoin, and Hirsch, 2018, p. 17). Considering gender-based violence is a rather sensitive topic, the safety of participants was promoted through utmost preservation of the collected data. Although the researcher encountered some challenges during the data collection procedure, the importance of ethical concerns was promoted.


The application of ethnographic research that combined qualitative interviews with participant observation was a justifiable methodology to undertake a pilot study on the topic titled, “the impact of the impact of gender-based violence against women in the University of Durham, England on the individual health and well-being.” The adopted research questions guided the research study, which facilitated the development of similar results from the methods and epistemic approaches. The researcher made a successful attempt to generate understanding and knowledge of the participant’s experiences on gender violence that was best suited to participant interviewing and observation. Ethnographic participant interviewing and observation was applied to produce insightful content on the topic. The researcher avoided the use of focus groups, a method that could have facilitated peer pressure and affected the ethical concerns of privacy and confidentiality of user information. Individual interviews and participant observation elicited the desired knowledge on the topic of gender-based violence against women at the institution. Although this ethnographic approach is often viewed as a non-scientific procedure that lacks the element of meticulousness, the researcher believes that the mixed approach of interviews and observation was the most effective method for the topic.

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