Narratives of abuse: Reflections on collecting and dealing with sensitive data in sport.

Authors: Kavanagh, E.

Conference: Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise

Dates: 1-3 September 2016


Narrative methods prioritise a specific individual’s experience through eliciting stories of concrete events and happenings that have occurred in their life. By recounting moments of experience within a storied form, the individual’s emotional and subjective responses are made accessible, bringing meaning to personal experience (Carless and Douglas 2013). Arguments for the use of narrative emerge from the supposition that a person at their most basic level is a story-telling animal (Smith and Sparkes 2009), naturally constructing stories out of cultural life (Polkinghorne 2005).

A number of researchers and clinicians have emphasised the importance of trauma survivors developing a verbal account or narrative: Harvey, Orbuch and Weber (1990) refer to this process as account making, and Pipher (2002) writes of healing stories. More specifically Brackenridge and Fasting (1997) referred to the importance of narrative as a method for investigating the experience of abuse in sport due to its power to capture or engage with historical and personal nuances of experience. Yet it is acknowledged that such stories are difficult to capture and require significant attention to ethical considerations and participant wellbeing.

The presentation is based upon the experience of collecting narratives of abuse from elite sports performers and will provide reflections on the process of collecting and dealing with sensitive information in the sport and exercise sciences. It will explore the stages of data collection from accessing participants, planning and completing the interview, creating an exit strategy and dealing with or reporting sensitive data.

Source: Manual