Sensitive Topics and People at Risk of Vulnerability

Important social research will often be concerned with sensitive topics or populations at risk of vulnerability. Perpetuity recognises the value of this work and is committed to ensuring the integrity of these types of research.

In all research, but especially work involving people at risk of vulnerability and research into sensitive topics, the benefits of research must outweigh potential risk to participants. It is vital that the design must meet the highest methodological and ethical standards with this kind of research. Perpetuity works flexibly and creatively to ensure that ethical principles such as consent, confidentiality and anonymity, data protection and risk limitation are upheld in these circumstances.

People at risk of vulnerability

Ethical research should not deliberately exclude groups who are at risk of vulnerability. People at risk of vulnerability are not always vulnerable, it’s a quality that changes dependent on people’s situations and environments and we recognise that different processes or extra support may be required when carrying out work with vulnerable groups.

Perpetuity has expertise in working with people at risk of vulnerability, including people who have experienced suicidal feelings and those impacted by domestic or sexual violence, and those in the criminal justice system or involved with criminal behaviours. We always work to reduce risk to participants when they are working with us and recognise that special consideration and skills must be used when working with potentially vulnerable groups. The wellbeing of participant is always more important than our research interest.

Sensitive topics

Sensitive topics are those which might be experienced as personally intrusive, for example research concerning illegal activities, sexual behaviour, experience of domestic or sexual abuse or suicidal feelings. Perpetuity have broad experience of carrying out sensitive research and follow strict ethical protocols when designing and carrying out this work to minimise risk to participants and ensure research integrity.

Examples of our work

We have extensive experience of working with partners including national mental health charities, local authorities, police crime commissioners and police.

Examples of our work include:

  • Research with people victimised by domestic abuse who had experienced suicidal thoughts – designed to highlight people’s stories, identify need and gaps in support.
  • Research with people in custody and the community who had been involved with serious acquisitive crime looking at understanding motivations for offending.
  • Work with people actively involved with crime.
  • Reviews of existing domestic abuse and sexual violence services (including ISVA, IDVA and therapeutic services)– designed to show areas how services are impacting on local communities and how these can be developed.
  • Various needs assessments on topics including sexual violence, hate crime, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol, and general victims of crime.
If you would like to know more about our work in this area, please contact