Lived Experience Group

Research in the area of sexual abuse and assault meets many challenges; one important aspect is adopting a research process that prioritises participants’ needs, and simultaneously leads to high-quality outputs that are meaningful to survivors, their families and communities and bring new insights to professionals, organisations and policy-makers concerned about sexual violence and abuse.

To achieve this approach and these outcomes, the project engages with a dedicated group of lived experience partners. These are people we’ve met through different organisations, events and networks. There are several ways in which the lived experience group informs and shapes the research from the co-production of materials and videos for recruiting professionals and survivors to gathering and analysis of data. Importantly, lived expertise is embedded within the main project team.

The project team, LEG members and co-investigators also value the input of specialist organisations and those led by survivors. For example, we are constantly expanding our awareness of sexual abuse and seek to enhance our approach to the safe and ethical conduct of the research through regular engagement with Survivors’ Voices and by drawing on their Charter. 

Please click here to view a Photovoice pilot production of the MESARCH Lived Experience Group. 

Meet some of our lived experience partners / PPI members here:

Gillian Finch

As someone with lived experience I know how important it is for those currently seeking help and support to receive appropriate care from and during their visit to a SARC. Whilst many victims/ survivors of sexual crimes will not need to access a SARC it is crucial that those who do are able to express what helped them, and where changes need to be made. SARCs need to remain victim focused and the MESARCH study will ensure that they continue to develop how best to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of victims attending such centres.


Sam Thompson

“I believe this piece of research to be so important for so many different reasons for so many different people but as a male survivor of rape, and as someone that has accessed a SARC to provide forensic evidence, for me this research is significant because it will highlight the lack of service provision for males victims in particular areas of the country. Then once we have that information it can be built on, improving the services available for other people like me.” Sam, a survivor himself, has engaged with media worldwide to share his story in a bid to encourage other men to break their silence and seek support. He has focused on challenging some of the myths surrounding male rape using his own experience to channel more progressive and forward-thinking conversations.

Sam is a founding trustee of the Male Survivors Partnership and has been an advisor and facilitator to a number of panels and projects in the UK, including Coronation Street on the David Platt storyline, which featured elements of his own story. Sam also participated in BAFTA nominated documentary “Raped: My Story”, and in 2017 he became an Ambassador for Survivors Manchester. Sam also contributed to and featured in the Victim Strategy which was launched last year.

Nicola Herbert

SARCs and other support services can only excel when the experiences of those who have been helped, guided and supported by what they have to offer are listened to and acted upon. A SARC provides a unique service in the care for those who have experienced sexual abuse and assault. As a survivor I am privileged to be included in such a ground breaking research programme that can only deliver constructive, effective survivor led changes to produce a stronger more effective support network for those who seek help. As a survivor who had no voice for 36 years, I am now happy to speak up, to change the narrative in such a taboo subject. I help individuals and organisations involved in this arena, who want to listen to a lived experience viewpoint push for better practices, change and support.


I have joined the Mesarch project because I am passionate about making a difference to other people's lives. I hope my contributions help to shape and improve services for generations to come.


"As someone with lived experience, I have anyways hoped that my journey would help someone else. As a survivor who was silent for years, and couldn't access appropriate resources, the work MESARCH are doing give me hope for the future of trauma informed care and SARC performance. No one should ever have to go through any form of abuse, but with this research we can help those who do to lead beautiful, brave lives despite the cruelty they've endured. This project gives people their lives back by changing the narrative on taboo subjects and focussing on the individuals needs and healing."