Jessamyn Hung on Mass Conflicts, Lived Experiences of Youth Born of Wartime Sexual Violence, Stigma and Sexual Health

December 10, 2020

Content Warning: This research involves themes of genocide and sexual violence and the interview below discusses the aspects of the research themes.

Bio: Jessamyn Hung is a Master’s candidate in the Counselling Psychology program in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Their research explores the experiences of youth conceived through wartime sexual violence to evaluate and address barriers to sexual and reproductive wellness. Jessamyn is a passionate advocate for mental and sexual health justice and aims to contribute to service accessibility through their research.

Congratulations on winning the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) award under the Canada Graduate Scholarship for Master’s program. How do you feel about winning such a prestigious award?

Thank you! Having the support of SSHRC is such an incredible opportunity. I feel so grateful to the department and those around me for their support to my research. It is quite motivating and exciting to have my efforts and ideas recognized and valued by the academic community. I am looking forward to applying this support towards the communities that I will be working alongside.

Please tell us something about yourself such as your academic background, hobbies, interests, etc.

For sure! I completed my B.A. (Hons.) in Psychology with a Minor in Counselling and Human Development at Simon Fraser University. My focus was on exploring the impacts of social information on helping behaviours for children with and without a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Outside of lecture halls and labs, I have spent several years in the field of mental and sexual health service provision and advocacy. Mental and sexual well-being can be so intimately intertwined, with struggles and celebrations in one domain affecting the other. In navigating the intersections of these fields, I have found a sense of love for this work. Being a part of community initiatives for mental and sexual health has highlighted the importance of understanding culture, stigma, and community connection for health and wellness. As such, these passions and experiences continue to guide my approaches in research.  

What are the implications of your research and who will benefit from this?

Historically, during mass conflicts, we see a pattern of sexual violence strategically used against communities. Youth who are born as a result of genocidal sexual violence tend to face immense stigma connected to the construction of their identities.

My research aims to understand the lived experiences of youths born of wartime sexual violence during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. My project explores how identity and stigma impact one’s understanding of and engagement with sexual health information and services. I believe we need to uphold and center the concerns, interests, and needs of these youths in their pursuits of sexual health and wellness. The accounts of these first-hand experiences and relationships with sexuality, services, and information are essential to promote and establish best practices of care. This research is an opportunity to address the stigmas surrounding this population that contribute to healthcare inequities. This can come about by informing service provision, clinical care, and policies.

Can you tell us how you prepared for your SSHRC proposal?

This question makes me laugh a little bit because I remember how stressed I was when preparing and submitting this proposal! While writing my proposal, I really wanted my intentions and passions for community health and justice to be evident. I spent a considerable amount of time developing an understanding of the literature, seeking out community voices, and then looking to see how my research could support equity of care for this population. I consulted with my supervisor, Dr. Masahiro Minami, who has been endlessly supportive of my growth and was so patient with my proposal revision process. The support of the faculty along with my peers has been so valuable and is genuinely appreciated.

What suggestions would you like to give to students interested in applying for SSHRC fellowships?

Great question! In applying for SSHRC, I looked toward others for their guidance and this was very important for my process. In preparing for the application, I would recommend reaching out to others who have applied. By doing this, I was able to hear the experiences of others and workshop my ideas. When it comes to writing the proposal, my suggestion would be to ground yourself in what you believe and why you believe this research is important. And then, to really just trust yourself and the potential of your research!

Thank you very much Jessamyn. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.