Why we need an initiative
Sexual violence is a profound human rights violation which has the potential to impact severely on the mental and physical health of survivors, both in the short term and over time. It is an epidemic fuelled by gender inequality and remains one of the least researched and understood forms of gender-based violence.
Research is critical in assisting us to strengthen existing intervention and prevention programmes for sexual violence and to develop new, more effective responses. The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) was established to address this gap. The SVRI does this by building networks and capacity in research on sexual violence, sharing information and promoting evidence-based communication.
Creation of the initative
Since its earliest meeting in 1997, the Global Forum for Health Research has discussed violence against women and more specifically sexual violence, reflecting their concern both with the severe health risks consequent to such violence and the violations of human rights. The Global Forum recommended that a consultation be organized to bring together relevant partners to discuss the problem and plan for future action.
As a result, two conferences were held. The first consultative meeting on sexual violence was held in Melbourne in May 2000. At this meeting, which was attended by representatives from all regions of the world and several networks of organizations working on sexual violence, it was agreed that a global initiative on sexual violence research was urgently needed. Thus, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative began to take shape.
The Melbourne meeting resulted in the participants appointing a Coordinating Group to move the initiative forward. A listserv of participants and others was established and further discussions about the research agenda were held via an e-mail forum. These discussions were concluded in time for the International Conference on Health Research for Development in Bangkok in October 2000, where further meetings on the nature of the SVRI and its research priorities were organized and attended by over 60 delegates from many countries and regions.
With financial support from the World Bank through its contribution to the Global Forum for Health Research, the SVRI was formally established in 2004. The SVRI was initially hosted by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Gender and Women’s Health, before moving to the Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit in South Africa in 2006.
The SVRI contributes to eliminating sexual violence by simultaneously addressing the lack of research on the different aspects of sexual violence as well as drawing the attention of a wide range of people, including policy-makers and the media, to this important public health and human rights issue. SVRI is building an experienced and committed network of researchers, policy-makers, activists and donors who ensure that the many dimensions of sexual violence are addressed from the perspective of different disciplines and with a multi-cultural outlook. Its central function is to strengthen the research skills of its members and web site users, and their capacity to undertake meaningful, policy and advocacy relevant research. It is achieving this in a number of ways but, most notably by:
- developing an interactive web site on sexual violence research ( www.svri.org) which includes country pages, tools, measuring instruments, funding information, links and other resources on sexual violence;
- creating a network of experienced and committed researchers, policy-makers, activists and donors via the SVRI listserv;
- building and strengthening the evidence base for sexual violence research by calling for proposals, providing technical assistance, forging partnerships, publicising research priorities and promoting sexual violence as a key focal area among donors; and
- building capacity for research on sexual violence through workshops, conferences and meetings.