Using biographical narrative interviewing methodology to research adults’ experiences of disclosing childhood sexual abuse
Disclosure of sexual abuse can be a process rife with barriers, setbacks and trauma. Those who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood tend to delay disclosure, possibly until adulthood, and can be silenced by structural, societal and personal barriers. Those who do disclose are often referred to as the ‘tip of the iceberg’, highlighting the potentially large hidden population who never come forward. This paper is drawn from a wider study which presented narratives of adults who have disclosed their experiences of childhood sexual abuse to social work services in the Republic of Ireland. In Irish child protection policy such disclosures are called ‘retrospective disclosures’. Recent reports by Irish State bodies have shown that those who have reported their childhood experiences to child protection authorities have not always received the response they would have hoped for (Office of the Ombudsman, 2017; Health Information and Quality Authority, 2016). Since the ‘narrative turn’ in social work research a rich body of work has been produced which explores the use of narrative approaches to address pertinent issues affecting social work practice. Biographical Narrative Interviewing Methodology (BNIM) is one such approach to narrative research and focuses on the presentation of voice and life experience. This paper presents the BNIM data collection process as it was used in the wider study and justifies the rationale for using such a methodology as a means of conducting research on a sensitive topic with a population that are too often silenced. This paper presents how an awareness of the socially constructed environment, the dynamics of abuse and the use of appropriate methodologies can bring such silenced and marginalised voices to the fore.