Developing my Research Identity (Embodying the Self) through Exploring the Experience of Woman- to-Woman Rape and Sexual Assault Victim/Survivors: Doing, Being, Becoming, and Belonging
Engagement in doctoral training is intended to lead to personal development, as well as – of course - the development of a person’s skills as a researcher. Having engaged in the occupation of doctoral training, I aim to reflect upon how my identity as researcher developed throughout this process; that is, through doing, being, becoming, and belonging. The aim of my doctoral research was to explore the impact of woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault. Hence, the foundational themes explored in this paper are sexual offending, auto/biography, and the significance of identity.
I commenced my doctoral training as someone who identified as an occupa-tional scientist and who, therefore, understood that occupation is a means through which people can develop, express themselves, and achieve some sense of belonging. Having completed my training, I reflect upon my becoming an auto/biographical researcher.
In this original paper, I use the sociologically-informed auto/biographical ap-proach, which affords me with the rationale for writing from the first-person perspective. Auto/biography concedes the combined inclusion of my own voice – as researcher - and the experiences of my respondents.
Little is known about the issue of woman-to-woman sexual offending, let alone the impact of researching this traumatic topic upon the researcher. Moreover, research has only relatively recently started to grow that explicitly uses an auto/biographical approach, in which researchers embrace their subjectivity and positionality within their work.
Identifying as an auto/biographical researcher, I appreciate how my respond-ents – in terms of their identity and the stories they told me - were integral to my development. That is, I engaged in the process of developing and under-standing the Self through exploring the perceived impacts of woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault.
I invite practitioners to share their awareness that woman-to-woman sexual offending is a very real phenomenon. Additionally, your engagement in or with research (which can include being the audience, or reader of research) is one way in which you can gain understanding of your Self.
I invite others to reflect upon how embodying the Self can lead you to gain self-knowledge through direct experience. Good, moral research practice does not have to involve the researcher remaining objective, neutral, and value-free. Your subjective and personal experiences as the researcher may well support the use of an auto/biographical approach.
Researching traumatic topics can have a varied emotional and professional impact upon researchers that warrants scrutiny. Use of an auto/biographical approach, in which the researcher’s insider status is made explicit - has enabled this researcher (me) to manage this impact, whilst also developing my knowledge, experience and Self.
Research that should follow on from this paper must continue to explore working auto/biographically when researching traumatic topics and biographical disruptions.