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Preserving and Protecting Memory Evidence in Rape Cases in the Global South

Project Description

In developing countries such as Kenya, sexual violence (SV) is grossly underreported, which undermines violence prevention and humanitarian protection efforts. Systematic knowledge about the circumstances in which SV occurs is lacking, and survivors’ ability to access justice is almost unheard of. For instance, only 10% of 4,000 survivors recently treated at the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital in 2018 pursued criminal charges. Of these cases, all were child victims; none of the adult survivors reported to the authorities. Further, rape prosecution in Kenya, as well as other countries in the Global South, is based exclusively on medico-legal evidence (i.e., findings from medical examination). Survivors around the world are given little opportunity to ‘tell their stories’ (i.e., give their account of the rape) to the police or the courts, and the word of a survivor holds little to no evidentiary value.

To address this justice gap, this PhD project will: 1) conduct experimental research on the effects of early documentation of rape survivor accounts on preserving the accuracy and reliability of memory for rape; and 2) conduct a randomised controlled trial to test MobApp, a method for comprehensively gathering and documenting survivor testimony in comparison with conventional methods.

The PhD is part of a larger project focused on humanitarian protection (, and uses innovative evidence-based methods for collecting testimony developed by grassroots organisations (, and state-of-the-art memory modelling appraoches. We seek to improve the reliability and accuracy of survivors’ testimony to inform appropriate charges, and ultimately, increase the rate of successful prosecutions in sexual violence cases around the world. Our team, including the Wangu Kanja Foundation’s SV Survivors Network in Kenya and the UN Population Fund, has developed a mobile phone app (MobApp) to document SV cases from individual survivors in all 47 counties of Kenya. The data collected via MobApp include the psycho-social impacts of SV and the survivor’s account of the crime and perpetrator. The key question for this PhD project is whether collecting these data from survivors preserves and protects memory accuracy when survivors give accounts subsequently to the police and in court.

To address this important question, the prospective PhD candidate should have:
• A masters degree in Psychology or equivalent experience;
• A track record of conducting high quality experimental memory research;
• Advanced skills in quantitative data analysis;
• Advanced training and experience in experimental psychology;
• A good knowledge, or willingness to learn, about sexual violence in sub-saharan Africa (including Kenya);
• Be able to develop a novel perspective on and an understanding of global challenges regarding gender based violence in the global south and sustainable developmental goal #5; and
• Be willing to travel on occasion to the Global South.

Applicants must meet the University of Birmingham’s academic PhD entry requirements in Psychology
• Non-native English speakers require an English language qualification equivalent to IELTS 6.5 with no element less than 6.0.
• Must be able to start their PhD on 1 October 2020.

This project is a College of Life and Environmental Sciences Scholarship.

Funding Notes

The award comprises:

1) Full payment of tuition fees at UK Research Councils UK/EU fee level to be paid (UK Indicative Fee Level for 2019/20 is £4,327);
2) An annual tax-free doctoral stipend at UK Research Councils UK/EU rates (indicative level was £15,009 for 2019/20), to be paid in monthly instalments to the scholar by the University;
3) The tenure of the award can be for up to 3.5 years (42 months)

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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