Healing after gender-based violence: A qualitative metasynthesis using meta-ethnography

Laura Sinko, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Richard James, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Kathryn Hughesdon, Eastern Michigan University


Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant violation of human rights, requiring specific understanding of how individuals heal and recover after these experiences. This article reports on findings of a qualitative metasynthesis that examined the nature of healing after GBV through the perspectives of female-identifying survivors. Empirical studies were identified by a search of peer-reviewed articles via electronic databases. Studies were included for review if they were available in the English language, reported on qualitative studies that directly engaged female-identifying survivors of GBV, and were aiming to understand the GBV healing journey, process, or goals. After our initial search, 1,107 articles were reviewed by title and abstract and 47 articles were reviewed for full text. Twenty-six peer-reviewed articles were included for the review and were analyzed using meta-ethnography. Key findings included the recovery journey as a nonlinear, iterative experience that requires active engagement and patience. Healing was composed of (1) trauma processing and reexamination, (2) managing negative states, (3) rebuilding the self, (4) connecting with others, and (5) regaining hope and power. “Shifts” or “turning points” are also mentioned which catalyzed healing prioritization. This article aggregates and examines the scientific literature to date on GBV healing and provides articulation of the limitations, gaps in evidence, and areas for intervention. The article considers implications for future research, policy, and practice and, in particular, focuses our attention on the need to expand our knowledge of alternative recovery pathways and mechanisms for healing.