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Part III, 12 Digital Human Rights Investigations: Vicarious Trauma, PTSD, and Tactics for Resilience

Sam Dubberley, Margaret Satterthwaite, Sarah Knuckey, Adam Brown

From: Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability

Edited By: Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig, Daragh Murray

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 23 September 2023

Right to health — Human rights remedies — Media

The aim of this chapter is twofold: to show that secondary trauma is a real risk for human rights researchers in the digital age; and to introduce human rights researchers and organisations to techniques and methods for mitigating harm and building resilience. Section 1 outlines the general criteria, symptoms, and risk factors for PTSD, and discusses the potential link between viewing photos or video of abuse and PTSD. Section 2 discusses why digital and open source investigations pose a unique challenge to the mental health of human rights researchers. Section 3 shares various tactics investigators can use to help prevent, mitigate, and respond to stress related to exposure to traumatic material. Section 4 turns to organisational strategies for working with potentially traumatic material. Section 5 addresses the impact of technological choices on exposure to distressing material, suggesting that developers need to confront and design with the risk of PTSD and other adverse effects in mind.

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