It was my personal experience of intimate partner violence (IPV) that motivated me to undertake my dissertation, but during the process I was haunted by my “IPV survivor” identity. Little did I know that my intellectual pursuit was an invitation into personal healing through heuristic inquiry. During the data collection phase of my dissertation, I unconsciously embarked on the initial engagement phase of heuristic inquiry, but only 2 years after completing my dissertation did I realize I experienced six phases of Moustakas’s (1990) heuristic inquiry. In this article, I share how my dissertation healed me through a retrospective analysis using heuristic inquiry. Through the coresearchers’ narratives, I began the process of embracing my IPV survivor identity—analogous to Kintsugi, the Japanese art of joining broken pottery with gold to form a new version of it. Through this process, I have begun to acknowledge my resiliency and, most importantly, feel empowered to engage with others who have had similar experience, connecting to a collective voice of IPV survivors. Thus, I argue that heuristic inquiry not only transforms the researcher but also has a powerful impact on others (Moustakas, 1990), empowering coresearchers and communities. I conclude with a strong recommendation to foster research of personal experiences, as it has the potential to bridge the gap between theory and practice (hooks, 1994).


Heuristic Inquiry, Healing, Dissertation, Intimate Partner Violence, Qualitative Research, Past Trauma

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Smita Kumar is an adjunct faculty at Business Schools, in the department of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management and an independent researcher. Her research interests include work and empowerment, work-family spillover, intimate partner violence in women, work identity and researcher self-care in emotionally demanding studies. She is passionate about multidisciplinary research at the intersection of work, family and social issues and to bring research into day-to-day lives in a meaningful way. In addition, Smita has over 12 years of work experience in international Human Resources across Asia and Europe. She also volunteers across diverse social issues such as homelessness, skill building in NGOs and as a yoga teacher in community centers and schools. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: smitak@gwmail.gwu.edu.


I would like to thank Dr. Andrea Casey for her positive and endearing ways of supporting me through this research, especially amidst the dark and painful phases. I would also like to express my gratitude to Dr. Lionel Howard, who continuously reminded me the value of self-care while researching personal traumatic life experience.

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