Guissella E. Cruz Rodriguez: Overcoming the IRB Hurdle

My summer project began with working on my academic literature review ad reading the growing literature on the impact image-based sexual abuse has on young women and femme. As my summer experience comes to a close for the semester, I was able to finish an academic literature review, draft and complete a thematic interview guide, and submit my first Institutional Review Board (IRB) application for review. This summer experience has laid the foundation for my Honors thesis for the upcoming Fall semester where I will continue working on my thesis and will begin interviewing survivors of image-based sexual abuse. The qualitative interviews will seek to have a better understanding of image-based sexual abuse victimization among BIPOC and queer youth.

Growing research has found overwhelming similarities between the symptoms survivors of image-based sexual abuse experience and the symptoms children who have been sexually abused experience (Bates 2017). It’s interesting to see how survivors of image-based sexual abuse have had a similar psychological impact among survivors who have been raped. Especially since this form of sexual assault is commonly undermined and referred to as sexual harassment, which undermines the impact image-based sexual abuse has on survivors. Sadly in the state of Florida, our legislation recognizes this form of sexual abuse as “cyber sexual harassment”. The passive diction of Florida’s legislation provides little accountability for abusers who sexually assault individuals in this way and goes on to undermine the traumatic psychological impact this form of sexual abuse has on an individual.

Much research shows survivors of child sexual abuse are far more susceptible to sexual violence throughout their adolescence and adulthood. My research aims to understand if the same goes for survivors of image-based sexual abuse. My research assesses the extent to which image-based sexual abuse victimization distorts youth’s understanding of consent and whether it makes them more susceptible to sexual violence in the future. I’m curious to further understand the consequences this form of sexual abuse has on our youth. I am eager to learn more about the impact of image-based sexual abuse victimization among youth, how to support survivors, and how to prevent it.

            I am currently working on submitting my IRB application to get my project approved for the upcoming Fall semester. I have submitted the first draft of my IRB application for revision and I am eager to get feedback. Once I have the IRB application approved, I can begin interviewing survivors of image-based sexual abuse. The IRB application had many questions and was a bit confusing at times because of its repetitive nature. Completing an IRB application has been a very long and repetitive process nonetheless it has been so worth it. The IRB application is very detailed, for good reason, and requires a step-by-step outline of my research design. It has been very helpful in shaping my understanding of how this study will be executed in the Fall once it is approved. Having completed my IRB application and sending it to be revised for the first time has been a very rewarding process since it has made my honors thesis feel so much more real to the point where I can envision how my study will look. I am excited to receive feedback on my research design since it brings me one step closer to uplifting the experiences of Black and Brown survivors of image-based sexual abuse. It has been a privilege to take part in centering the voices of BIPOC queer survivors in my research and have the opportunity to lead this experience.

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