Storyful recently released a podcast on the risks that come with prolonged and frequent exposure to graphic content. I consider this a crucial—and unfortunately still underreported—challenge in crisis human rights research. Even more reason to also highlight this important podcast on this site.
Editors note: Guest contribution by Sam Dubberley from the Eyewitness Media Hub about their new study on the risk of secondary trauma when working with citizen media. The study is based on an online survey of 209 professionals in the journalism, human rights and humanitarian field, in addition to 38 in-depth interviews and a review of relevant literature.
I work on the Digital Frontline – how should I protect myself from the traumatic content I’m seeing?
We at Eyewitness Media Hub have just completed a research project entitled Making Secondary Trauma a Primary Issue: A Study of Eyewitness Media and Vicarious Trauma on the Digital Frontline. In this research, we report on how human rights organizations and their managers need to start taking the issue of vicarious trauma seriously when asking researchers and investigators at headquarters to use eyewitness media or user-generated content (eyewitness media or UGC refers to photographs or videos captured by people around the world on their smartphones and used by, for example, human rights, humanitarian or news organizations) to investigate potential human rights violations. Our research shows that human rights organizations are failing in their duty of care to professionals working with this content, and that these professionals are scared about admitting to their managers that they are having a hard time dealing with some of the more distressing images they are seeing day in day out.Continue reading Protecting yourself from trauma on the digital frontline→
Eyewitness Media Hub is embarking on a cross-industry study into the impact of traumatic footage — and we need your help
Eyewitness Media Hub, with the support of the Open Society Foundation, is conducting a cross-industry study into the impact of vicarious trauma on journalists, human rights investigators and humanitarian aid workers who frequently search for eyewitness media in their work. Sam Dubberley — who makes up the research team along with Pete Brown — explains why this is so important and what the study aims to achieve.
It was in September 2004 that I had my first experience of what turned out to be vicarious trauma. It was the height of the insurgency in Iraq following the invasion that had toppled Saddam Hussein over a year earlier. I had colleagues in Baghdad. I, on the other hand, was sitting in a newsroom in Geneva. On September 20th, Eugene Armstrong, an American engineer, was beheaded. The main television news agencies discovered and distributed the video showing his murder. For reasons that I do not understand to this day, I was the one who volunteered in my Geneva office to watch it. Bravado? An attempt to prove myself? Career advancement? Aged 27, it was probably a bit of all of those. One thing I know for sure, though, is that whatever compelled me to watch the video of the death of Eugene Armstrong on a rainy, late summer afternoon in Geneva, I wish to this day that I hadn’t. Read full article