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In their own words

Sometimes it helps to read other people’s stories. These case studies of domestic abuse highlight some real stories.

Psychological abuse - Marianna's story

Physical abuse - jenny's story, sexual abuse - husna's story, financial abuse - halima's story, emotional abuse - jane's story.

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Violence against women must stop; five stories of strength and survival

After suffering in a violent and abusive relationship, Layla went to the police, accompanied by a friend.

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Conflicts, humanitarian crises and increasing climate-related disasters have led to higher levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG), which has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing into sharp focus the urgent need to stem the scourge.

Globally, nearly one-in-three women have experienced violence, with crises driving the numbers even higher.

Gender-based violence (GBV), the most pervasive violation of human rights, is neither natural, nor inevitable, and must be prevented.

Marking the 16 Days of Activism to combat violence against women and girls, UN Women is showcasing the voices of five survivors, each of whose names has been changed to protect their identity. Be forewarned that each character sketch includes descriptions of gender-based violence.

‘Convinced’ she would be killed

From the Argentine province of Chaco, 48-year-old mother of seven, Diana suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.

“I wasn't afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.

At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.

Living with an abusive father, her children also suffered psychological stress and economic hardship.

Leaving was not easy, but with the support of a social workers, a local shelter and a safe space to recover, Diana got a job as an administrative assistant in a municipal office.

Accelerate gender equality

  • Violence against women and girls is preventable.
  • Comprehensive strategies are needed to tackle root causes, transform harmful social norms, provide services for survivors and end impunity.
  • Evidence shows that strong, autonomous women’s rights movements are critical to thwarting and eliminating VAWG.
  • The  Generation Equality Forum  needs support to stem the VAWG violence.

“I admit that it was difficult, but with the [mental health] support, legal aid and skills training, I healed a lot,” she explained.

Essential services for survivors of domestic violence are a lifeline.

“I no longer feel like a prisoner, cornered, or betrayed. There are so many things one goes through as a victim, including the psychological [persecution] but now I know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to”.

Diana is among 199 women survivors housed at a shelter affiliated with the Inter-American Shelter Network, supported by UN Women through the  Spotlight Initiative  in Latin America. The shelter has also provided psychosocial support and legal assistance to more than 1,057 women since 2017.

Diana’s full story is  here .

Survivor now ‘excited about what lies ahead’

Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Bangladesh, triggering a VAWG surge, many shelters and essential services shut down

Romela had been married to a cruel, torturous man.

“When I was pregnant, he punched me so hard I ended up losing my baby...I wanted to end my life”, she said.

She finally escaped when her brother took her to the  Tarango  women’s shelter, which in partnership with UN Women, was able to expand its integrated programme to provide safe temporary accommodations, legal and medical services, and vocational training to abused women who were looking for a fresh start.

Living in an abusive relationship often erodes women’s choices, self-esteem and potential. Romela had found a place where she could live safely with her 4-year-old daughter.

Opening a new chapter in her life, she reflected, “other people always told me how to dress, where to go, and how to live my life. Now, I know these choices rest in my hands”.

 “ I feel confident, my life is more enjoyable ,” said the emancipated woman.

Tarango  houses 30–35 survivors at any given time and delivers 24/7 services that help them recover from trauma, regain their dignity, learn new skills, and get job placement and a two-month cash grant to build their economic resilience.

“Our job is to make women feel safe and empowered, and to treat them with the utmost respect and empathy,” said Programme Coordinator Nazlee Nipa.

Click  here  for more on her story.

Romela escaped her abusive marriage when her brother took her to a women’s shelter in Bangladesh.

Uphill battle with in-laws

Goretti returned to western Kenya in 2001 to bury her husband and, as dictated by local culture, remained in the family’s homestead.

“But they wouldn’t give me food. Everything I came with from Nairobi – clothes, household items – was taken from me and divided between the family,” she recounted.

For nearly 20 years after her husband’s death, Goretti was trapped in a life of abuse until her in-laws they beat her so badly that she was hospitalized and unable to work.

Afraid to go to law enforcement, Goretti instead reached out to a local human rights defender, who helped her get medical attention and report the case to the local authorities.

They wouldn’t give me food. Everything...was taken from me and divided between the family – Survivor

However, she quickly discovered that her in-laws had already forged with the police an agreement in her name to withdraw the case.

“But I cannot even write”, Goretti said.

Human rights defenders in Kenya are often the first responders to violations, including GBV. Since 2019, UN Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ( OHCHR ) have been supporting grass-roots organizations that provide legal training and capacity-building to better assist survivors.

In addition to reporting the issue to local police and the courts, human rights defender Caren Omanga, who was trained by one of these organizations, also contacted the local elders.

“I was almost arrested when confronting the officer-in-charge”, Ms. Omanga explained. But knowing that the community would be against Goretti, she started “the alternative dispute-resolution process, while pushing the case to court”.

Finally, with her case settled out of court, Goretti received an agreement granting her the property and land title that she had lost in her marriage dowry, and the perpetrators were forced to pay fines to avoid prison.

“It is like beginning a new life after 20 years, and my son is feeling more secure… I’m thinking of planting some trees to safeguard the plot and building a poultry house”, she said.

Read Goretti’s story in its entirety  here.

Goretti (right) speaks with Caren Omanga of the Nyando Social Justice Centre in Kenya.

Raising consciousness

In Moldova, sexual harassment and violence are taboo topics and, fearing blame or stigmatization, victims rarely report incidents.

At age 14, Milena was raped by her boyfriend in Chisinau. She was unaware that her violation was a sexual assault and continued to see her abuser for another six months before breaking up. Then she tried to forget it.

“This memory was blocked, as if nothing happened”, until two years later, upon seeing an Instagram video that triggered flashbacks of her own assault, she said.

Almost one-in-five men in Moldova have sexually abused a girl or a woman, including in romantic relationships, according to  2019 research  co-published by UN Women.

Determined to understand what had happened to her, Milena learned more about sexual harassment and abuse, and later began raising awareness in her community.

Last year, she joined a UN Women youth mentorship programme, where she was trained on gender equality and human rights and learned to identify abuse and challenge sexist comments and harassment.

Milena went on to develop a self-help guide for sexual violence survivors , which, informed by survivors aged 12 – 21, offers practical guidance to seek help, report abuse, and access trauma recovery resources.

Against the backdrop of cultural victim-blaming, which prevents those who need it from getting help, the mentoring programme focuses on feminist values and diversity, and addresses the root causes of the gender inequalities and stereotypes that perpetuate GBV and discrimination.

“The programme has shown that youth activism and engagement is key to eliminating gender inequalities in our societies”, explained Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Country Representative in Moldova.

Read more about Milena  here .

Support survivors, break the cycle of violence

A 2019 national survey revealed that only three-out-of-100 sexual violence survivors in Morocco report incidents to the police as they fear being shamed or blamed and lack trust in the justice system.

Saliha Najeh, Police Chief at Casablanca Police Unit for Women Victims of Violence.

Layla began a relationship with the head of a company she worked for. He told her he loved her, and she trusted him.

“But he hit me whenever I disagreed with him. I endured everything, from sexual violence to emotional abuse…he made me believe that I stood no chance against him”, she said.

Pregnant, unmarried and lonely, Layla finally went to the police.

To her great relief, a female police officer met her, and said that there was a solution.

“I will never forget that. It has become my motto in life. Her words encouraged me to tell her the whole story. She listened to me with great care and attention”, continued Layla.   

She was referred to a local shelter for single mothers where she got a second chance.

Two years ago, she gave birth to a daughter, and more recently completed her Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics.

“I was studying while taking care of my baby at the single mother’s shelter”, she said, holding her daughter’s hand. 

UN Women maintains that building trust and confidence in the police is an integral part of crime prevention and community safety.

When professionally trained police handle GBV cases, survivors are more likely to report abuse and seek justice, health and psychosocial  services  that help break the cycle of violence while sending a clear message that it is a punishable crime.

Over the past few years, the General Directorate of National Security, supported by UN Women, has restructured the national police force to better support women survivors and prevent VAWG.

Today, all 440 district police stations have dedicated personnel who refer women survivors to the nearest specialized unit.

“It takes a lot of determination and courage for women to ask the police for support”, said Saliha Najeh, Police Chief at Casablanca Police Unit for Women Victims of Violence, who, after specialized training through the UN Women programme, now trains her police officers to use a survivor-centred approach in GBV cases.  

As of 2021, 30 senior police officers and heads of units have been trained through the programme.

“Our role is to give survivors all the time they need to feel safe and comfortable, and for them to trust us enough to tell their story”, she said.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Morocco has also expanded channels for survivors to report and access justice remotely through a 24-hour toll-free helpline, an electronic complaints mechanism, and online court sessions.

Click  here  for the full story.

These stories were originally published by UN Women.

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  • gender-based violence
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Viewing a Tragic Case Through the Eyes of Investigators

Ellen Barry, a national reporter for The New York Times, spent months retracing a domestic violence prosecution in Maine.

case study about domestic abuse

By Ellen Barry

As a national reporter, I usually start my day skimming half a dozen regional newspapers, looking for local news stories that might deserve a closer look. I was doing that in September 2020 when I came across an item on Seacoast Online, from New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Herald, that puzzled me.

A man in Kittery, Maine, named Nelson Dion had pleaded guilty to federal charges of crossing state lines to violate a protection order . His former partner, Tanya Neal, was not around to see this outcome; tragically, she had jumped to her death from the Piscataqua River Bridge in 2016 .

Violating a protection order is a relatively low-level domestic violence offense, rarely meriting 700 words in the newspaper. In this case, though, the government had stuck with the investigation for five years, involving officers from four departments in New Hampshire and Maine as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Not only that — the F.B.I. agent on the case was Tommy MacDonald, who had served on the task force that hunted down James (Whitey) Bulger, the Boston mob boss. To get Mr. Dion to confess to violating the protection order, Mr. MacDonald had set up a sting operation, including special agents wearing button cameras.

Why, I wondered, was the government going to such lengths to prosecute a relatively low-level domestic violence case?

It took me more than six months to begin to understand the answer.

In April, I was finally able to interview Ryan Sanford, the police detective who had pulled over Ms. Neal in 2016 for a traffic violation. We spoke for two hours and 28 minutes. By the time I left, I had a better sense of the difficult decisions law enforcement officers face when they weigh how to act on allegations of abuse.

It had all started with that traffic stop. When Ms. Neal told Officer Sanford that she was trying to get away from her partner, he took immediate action, moving her to a shelter for victims of domestic violence and gathering enough information for the police to arrest Mr. Dion on assault charges the next day. When Officer Sanford dropped her off that night, he was satisfied that he had done everything he could to keep her safe.

But seven weeks later, he was called to the scene of her suicide, and it became clear that all the steps he had taken had come undone. Mr. Dion had been released on bail and resumed contact with Ms. Neal, breaching a court order. After that, she left the shelter and began showing up to work with fresh injuries. The police suspected that the two were back in contact, in violation of Mr. Dion’s bail conditions, but since the authorities never spotted them together, they took no action.

Then Ms. Neal jumped to her death. Her testimony had been central to the prosecution of the assault case, so that charge was dismissed. The charge of violating a protection order — a federal charge, since it occurred across state lines — was the only one left to act on.

When I began to talk about this case with the police and prosecutors — a constellation of them, in New Hampshire and Maine — their broader frustration with domestic violence cases poured out.

They said that restraining orders are violated casually and difficult to enforce; that rules about evidence mean courts hear only a fraction of a case history; that juries still get stuck on why a victim would return to a dangerous situation. “I truly feel like we’re putting Band-Aids on bullet holes,” Shira Burns, an assistant district attorney in York County, said.

It is rare for me to hear the police openly criticizing the criminal justice system, and I was struck by the depth of their emotion. My purpose in writing the story was to capture that. In my experience, when insiders begin to tell you about the flaws in their own systems, it’s worth paying attention.

When I sat down to write, I had more than 100 pages of notes and many hours of recorded interviews. I had to set aside much of that research. I was not unpacking the question of why Ms. Neal was in a dangerous situation or why she returned to it. And I was not driving home a single lesson about how domestic violence is prosecuted.

I had the opportunity to tell one story, and I chose the one that had interested me from the beginning — of the people who had tried to intervene in her life, why they weren’t able to and why they never let her case go.

Ellen Barry is The Times's New England bureau chief. She has previously served as The Times's Russia and South Asia bureau chief and was part of a team that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.  More about Ellen Barry

Why Women Stay: Understanding the Trauma Bond Between Victim and Abuser Case Studies Were Written

  • First Online: 23 June 2021

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Part of the book series: Gender, Development and Social Change ((GDSC))

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Despite the attention given to intimate partner abuse, little is understood about the psychological factors that influence women’s decisions about staying in abusive relationships. The current study applied object relations theory to explain the personality development of both victim and abuser stemming from childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment and the development of two defense mechanisms that influence women’s decisions about staying. Using case studies with three women in a private practice setting, the research found that the childhood experiences of the three women included different levels of abuse, and that they all employed the moral and splitting defenses that influenced their decisions about staying. Specific guidelines for intervention are discussed as well as implications for research and policy.

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Hadeed, L. (2021). Why Women Stay: Understanding the Trauma Bond Between Victim and Abuser Case Studies Were Written. In: Bissessar, A.M., Huggins, C. (eds) Gender and Domestic Violence in the Caribbean. Gender, Development and Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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Domestic abuse: learning from case reviews

Summary of risk factors and learning for improved practice around families and domestic abuse.

This learning from case reviews briefing looks at case reviews published since 2019, where children experienced domestic abuse.

The reviews suggest professionals sometimes struggle to keep their focus on children when they are working with families where there is domestic abuse.

The learning from these case reviews highlights that professionals need to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the effect it can have on children, and not make assumptions about gender roles within relationships where there is domestic abuse. Professionals must prioritise the impact that living with domestic abuse has on children.

Published: June 2020

Browse our full series of learning from case reviews briefings

Our series of thematic briefings highlight the learning from case reviews conducted when a child dies, or is seriously harmed, as a result of abuse or neglect. Each briefing focuses on a different topic or learning for specific sectors, pulling together key risk factors and practice recommendations.

> See the full series

More about case reviews

We work with local safeguarding partners to ensure that learning from case reviews can be accessed and shared at a local, regional and national level.

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Find out how you can apply the lessons from case reviews and improve your practice to help protect children and young people. 

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Browse through our list of child safeguarding practice reviews, serious case reviews, significant case reviews and child practice reviews which were added to the National case review repository between 2019 and 2023.


Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter alerting you to the case reviews we have added to the National collection of case reviews repository at the NSPCC.

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Related resources

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Read our information on what domestic abuse is, how to recognise it and how people who work with children can respond to it.

NSPCC Learning Podcast

Learn how the NSPCC Helpline’s new Domestic Abuse Practice Advisors support children and families experiencing domestic abuse in this NSPCC Learning podcast episode.

Helplines insight briefing

We share what parents, carers, children and young people have told our helplines about experiencing domestic abuse in the form of coercive and controlling behaviours.

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Police officers demonstrate attending a domestic incident during training in Dorset.

Domestic abuse cases abandoned too quickly when victims retreat – study

Lack of police resources cited as reason for not gathering other evidence, say inspectorates

Police and prosecutors are dropping domestic abuse cases far too readily when victims become reluctant to pursue complaints against often violent partners, an official inspectorate report has warned.

Lack of police resources is the excuse commonly given for discontinuing investigations, even where there may be sufficient alternative evidence from cameras, witnesses or other sources, the review found.

The study, Evidence-led Domestic Abuse Prosecutions, highlights use of what is known as “outcome 16” in police inquiries – an administrative dead end where no further action is taken because of “evidential difficulties” when the suspect is identified but the “victim does not support further action”.

In rape cases there has been a sudden ballooning of this category , so that the proportion of rape cases abandoned due to outcome 16 rose from 33% to 48% from 2015 to 2018.

A similar pattern may be present in domestic abuse cases. In nearly 20% of a sample of 78 cases examined “reasonable lines of inquiry had been missed”, according to the joint report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

In many of those cases, the report noted, “there were undue delays in gathering evidence … [and] police supervisors attributed the delay to a lack of police resource available to follow up reports of incidents”.

In one case study highlighted by the report, there was evidence from a taped 999 call and a police body camera, but it was was not sent to the CPS until the day before the trial. “By that time,” the report says, “the victim had retracted and the opportunity to pursue an evidence-led prosecution had been lost.”

The inspectorate acknowledges the scale of the challenge. “The domestic abuse caseload for both the CPS and the police has increased by 88% against the backdrop of a 25% reduction in police and CPS funding,” it says. “This means both investigators and prosecutors are stretched, which results in difficult decisions about priorities.”

It adds: “The fact that there are no effective systems to identify evidence-led [as opposed to victim-led] prosecutions results in a missed opportunity for both the police and CPS to learn lessons and drive improvement in evidence-led cases.”

The CPS, which has been given more cash, is in the process of hiring 390 new prosecutors by the end of June. It currently employs 2,200 prosecutors.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person – often a woman – is made to question their own perception of reality through deception and the withholding of information. 

The term derives from the 1938 play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to convince his wife of her own insanity in order to distract her from his criminal behaviour. The play was twice adapted for film, first in a 1940 British production, and later in a 1944 Hollywood version that starred Ingrid Bergman.

While the term ‘gaslighting’ has been present in academic literature and some colloquial use since the 1960s, it is only in recent times that it has come into common usage with the rise of social media. It has been a recurring subject in popular culture, with films, TV series and radio serials such as The Girl on the Train, Jessica Jones and The Archers including storylines that feature the trope .

The term has also been used in political commentary, most frequently in reference to the US president, Donald Trump, who has been accused of gaslighting US citizens with frequent lies and misinformation. 

In May 2018, Theresa May suggested that she would seek to strengthen UK laws on gaslighting after the death of the daughter of the Commons deputy speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

In a joint statement, HM Inspector Wendy Williams and HMCPSI Chief Inspector Kevin McGinty said: “Domestic abuse can have a devastating impact on victims’ lives and it is important that the police and CPS are proactive in their approach to dealing with this type of offending.

“Both the police service and CPS are moving in the right direction, but much more can be done to ensure an evidence-led approach is considered a focus and priority, and it should be considered for all cases at an early stage. Officers should prioritise effective evidence gathering, and prosecutors should highlight it, by working on the assumption that the victim may withdraw support, in order for the prospects of success to improve.”

The inspection found that in 42.1% of CPS casework files authorising charges read by inspectors, there was no consideration of how to progress the case without victim participation.

HMCPSI inspectors also examined 40 domestic abuse cases where prosecutors decided to take no further action. In three cases, inspectors decided there was sufficient evidence to charge an offence and it was in the public interest to do so. In one of them, although the victim did not make a complaint, there was evidence from three police officers which supported laying charges.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse, deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe, said: “Despite reports rising considerably at a time when police resources have reduced, we have seen a ‘substantial improvement’ in our response, as recognised previously by HMICFRS.

“When a victim does not support a prosecution we will always consider their vulnerability, ensure their safety and seek evidence to pursue the case, but this can be challenging when other evidence is limited.

“We will consider the recommendations of this review with our criminal justice partners as we continue to improve our response. However, prosecution is only part of the answer and long-term solutions are found in better multi agency support for victims and their families, as well as effective perpetrator programmes.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “We want to see perpetrators of domestic abuse brought to justice whenever possible, but recognise there are complex reasons why victims may withdraw their support for the prosecution.

“Working with police colleagues, we are committed to improving our approach to and handling of these cases to help make sure they are robust and can continue if that occurs.”

  • Domestic violence
  • UK criminal justice

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10 Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

Dessie clark, ph.d., & joshua brown, lcsw, the purpose of this case study is to explore the process and outcomes of a collaboration between researchers and a community-based organization serving survivors of gender-based violence, fort bend women’s center., the big picture.

case study about domestic abuse

Gender-based violence is a rapidly growing social concern and even more so as the world continues to grapple with the effects of Covid-19.  The implications of gender-based violence are too numerous to name here, but there are several special considerations for this population, including attrition (this population can be more transient than others), high caseload and rate of burnout for front line workers, as well as the physical and psychological effects of abuse, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and initial reluctance to trust others. Further, gaps in existing work with survivors of gender-based violence include a mismatch between the expectations of researchers and the realities of those who are on the frontlines in these organizations and the people that they serve. The purpose of this case study is to explore the process and outcomes of a collaboration between researchers and a community-based organization serving survivors of gender-based violence, Fort Bend Women’s Center . We propose that focusing attention on communication, trust, buy-in, and burnout are critical for collaborations between researchers and community organizations that serve survivors of gender-based violence.

It is important to understand that collaborations, such as the one detailed in this case study, do not begin by happenstance. Strong collaborations can take time to develop. For this reason, the authors find it important to explain the origins of this project. In 2012, Abeer Monem (now former) Chief Programs Officer of the Fort Bend Women’s Center (FBWC) began to explore reasons why a portion of the agency’s Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) survivors were struggling to progress toward self-sufficiency, despite the agency’s existing program offerings such as case management and counseling. As the agency explored the reasons behind the lack of progress, it became clear that one of the main reasons could be potential traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the survivor population. Eager to confirm their suspicion, agency personnel embarked on the discovery and research phases of the intervention’s lifecycle.

It was first deemed necessary to determine if agency survivors indeed exhibited a likelihood of traumatic brain injury. FBWC personnel began administering the HELPS Screening Tool for Traumatic Brain Injury (HELPS) (M. Picard, D. Scarisbrick, R. Paluck, International Center for the Disabled, TBI-NET, and U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration). The HELPS Screening Tool is a simple tool designed to be given by professionals who are not TBI experts. FBWC personnel began by offering the HELPS upon intake to survivors seeking services. The initial findings found that over 50% of survivors screened positive for a potential brain injury incident. With this knowledge, FBWC program leadership began exploring neurofeedback as an innovative approach to assisting survivors exhibiting symptoms of TBI. FBWC approached another non-profit organization that was focused on researching and propagating neurofeedback in public school-based settings. After deliberations between leadership groups, a budget and project plan was finalized.

FBWC leadership began seeking funding from various sources and, after several attempts over approximately 18 months, two sources (one governmental, one non-governmental) agreed to fund the initial work of the neurofeedback project. Initial funding covered the neurofeedback equipment as well as the cost of setup, training, and mentoring by a board-certified neurofeedback clinician. In late 2014, FBWC began an initial pilot program to determine the impact and efficacy of a neurofeedback training program for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) survivors with potential brain injury in an agency setting.

In 2017, I (Dessie Clark) traveled to Houston, Texas where she was introduced to Abeer Monem, the previous Chief Programs Officer of FBWC. During this meeting, Abeer shared information about an innovative neurofeedback program that was happening at FBWC. She described the approach and noted that they had been collecting data on the program to try to assess efficacy and impact. Dessie was intrigued and agreed to visit the site later that week. Upon arrival, Dessie was introduced to Joshua Brown, a board-certified neurofeedback clinician, who was the Director of Special Initiatives (now Chief Programs Officer) and one of the founders of the neurofeedback program. After multiple discussions, an agreement was reached between the two parties to begin a collaboration.

case study about domestic abuse

Community Assets & Needs

Fort Bend Women’s Center provides comprehensive services for survivors such as emergency shelter, case management, counseling, housing services, and legal aid. It is important to acknowledge that there are components of Fort Bend Women’s Center that are unique to the way the agency approaches service provision.  Community assets will vary widely, even amongst similar populations. That being said, we believe the following assets are important to intimate partner violence survivors generally. First, FBWC emphasizes a trauma-informed care approach to working with survivors. The service model is voluntary (as opposed to other models that may have mandatory or compulsory services) and non-judgmental. Specifically, at FBWC, there was existing trust between staff and survivors. This is largely due to a rules reduction , trauma-informed care model that focuses on enhancing internal motivation in survivors and open and honest communication with staff. This helps to create a culture where survivors feel willing and able to be more open about their experiences and the challenges they are facing. Important elements of this model include the offering of voluntary services and non-judgmental advocacy. This model has led to survivors developing a vested interest in the success of FBWC as an agency. Many survivors participated in the research because they felt motivated to share with others their positive experiences at FBWC. Also, many survivors return to FBWC to volunteer following service provision. Please note that the intrinsic motivation to stay involved with FBWC is not a common phenomenon in this community. This illustrates the importance of continual work on trust, safety, and confidentiality.

The IPV survivor community has myriad needs, and no one IPV community will have the same needs. For this partnership, there were several key needs of the survivors at Fort Bend Women’s Center that became vital to address in order to successfully implement the partnership. These needs included trust, safety, confidentiality, and adaptability. Given the trauma that survivors have experienced, these components need to be taken into consideration in interactions with other survivors, staff, and members of the research team.

case study about domestic abuse

The survivor population at Fort Bend Women’s Center have experienced violence from a family member and/or sexual assault. FBWC data suggests that over half of the survivors seeking services at FBWC have experienced multiple traumatic experiences. Additionally, some survivors may have had difficult experiences with the justice system, the medical establishment, and other helping professionals. Experiences of trauma can cause distrust from the survivor when seeking services. Additionally, there is a high incidence of mental health disorders in survivors, including paranoia, that can impede the creation of a trusting relationship. Establishing trust became a vital step in survivor recruitment. For effective recruitment, it was imperative that survivors trusted that their information would be kept in confidence and that what they were being asked to participate in would not harm them. As previously mentioned, a culture of trust already existed between survivors and staff. The research team was able to build on this by including staff in the research collaboration. Staff members were included in project development, which allowed them to have a deeper understanding of the work. Staff’s enthusiasm for the collaboration, which was shared with survivors, helped extend the pre-existing trust that survivors had with staff members to the research collaboration.

Safety is of utmost importance to survivors who are fleeing violence. While one might only think of physical safety with this population, it is also important to take psychological safety into account. Steps were taken in this program to ensure that participating survivors understood the likelihood of any psychological harm due to sharing their traumatic experiences. Mental health staff was identified on a rotating basis to act as an on-call resource should survivors need it.


Confidentiality of personal information directly involves trust and safety. Many survivors in our program feared for their lives and did not want anyone to know where they were or what they were doing. It is important when working with this population to ensure confidentiality. This is not only ethically and legally important, it is also important in building a long-lasting program. When thinking about effective confidentiality, one should consider their applicable agency, state, and federal confidentiality rules and regulations. At a minimum, it is important to execute a confidentiality agreement with the participant.

Collaborative Partners

To begin the process of engaging in effective research collaborations, it is often difficult to identify an effective community partner, and it is a somewhat arduous process.  While individuals and organizations in academia understand the merits of research, this is not always the case for community organizations. Even in cases where community organizations recognize these benefits, there may be barriers, such as trust, due to historical harms done to communities by researchers. Additionally, community organizations often face strains due to limited resources or capacity to support research which researchers may fail to acknowledge or understand. These issues can create barriers for researchers who are interested in partnering with organizations that have survivor populations. This also causes issues for community organizations who may be less likely to have access to research, including best practices, given academic publishing practices.

Building understanding and trust between researchers and community partners is at the heart of a successful collaboration. A solid research partnership with a community organization requires buy-in from both sides. Whether from the perspective of the community organization or the researcher, it is imperative to find a partner that communicates effectively. This involves clearly defining each party’s expectations upfront, making sure that the terms that are used are clearly understood (including any potential jargon), and discussing the importance of flexibility in timelines. A great example of the lack of work on building understanding and trust is the story of the (now-defunct) nonprofit Southwest Health Technology Foundation (SWHTF) in which one author, Joshua Brown, was an employee. SWHTF was a small organization that was focused on evaluating the effectiveness of neurofeedback in existing systems (such as public schools). SWHTF began several data-driven pilot projects without the assistance of a research partner. These data showed the potential positive effects of neurofeedback interventions on behavior and academic performance. However, these data never saw the light of day. SWHTF leadership attempted to partner with four different research institutions to analyze the data. All four attempts ultimately failed without yielding tangible results. This was due to a failure on the part of SWHTF and the researchers to build trust and understanding through defining clear expectations, clearly understanding each party’s role, and agreeing on expected outcomes.

An important part of building trust is approaching a partnership with strategies that are aimed at the education of staff and survivors who will be involved.  While SWHTF is a relevant example, the focus of this case study is the project conducted with Fort Bend Women’s Center (FBWC). We found the most effective approach to building trust and understanding was to focus on educating staff about our project first. We identified the case managers as those staff who have the most contact with survivors and have built up the most trust. When educating staff members, we found that it wasn’t as important that they fully understood all the specifics of the project but, rather, that they had enough of a basic level of knowledge about the project to introduce the information to the survivor. Because case managers had built up trust with the survivors, the survivors were much more likely to take the recommendation of the case manager and enroll in the program. Because our case managers were not subject experts, survivors were willing to speak to researchers even without an understanding of the specifics. The specifics were provided by researchers and program staff before enrollment.

In order to understand how a community navigates issues related to gender-based violence, it is important to understand the ways in which the culture of that community may impact their perspective. The key stakeholders in this project included the funding entities, the Chief Programs Officer, the Neurofeedback program Lead, and members of the Neurofeedback team. The population consisted of survivors of gender-based violence; both those who had completed a neurofeedback program and those who had not yet done so but desired to do so in the future.  This research collaboration was between researchers at Michigan State University and  Fort Bend Women’s Center. The organization, which served as the primary setting for the project, provides emergency shelter, housing/rental assistance, and supportive services. The project was predominantly made up of those located within the agency as staff members while researchers at Michigan State University primarily served as guides and consultants for the research portion of the project. For this project, funders included the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the George Foundation, the Simmons Foundation, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

Project Description

This case study involved a multi-year collaboration. During the initial six-months, a series of site visits were conducted with the goal of researchers getting to know staff members of the community organization, as well as the survivors who received services from the organization. Before engaging in any research, a multi-day feedback session was held in which staff members from the organization gave feedback on the research including the approach, questions, assessment tools, and logistics of how the research would be conducted. In these sessions, it became clear that given the population being served at this site, to include high numbers of disabled or immigrant survivors, there would need to be adjustments for accessibility and safety. Other barriers specific to this collaboration included staff burdens, the distance between researcher and community partner, and various considerations given the population such as trauma responses, trauma history, and the relatively transient nature of the population. Additionally, the research and data collection experience of the staff at the community organization was limited. These conversations were critical in helping the community organization familiarize themselves with the research and the researcher obtain a better understanding of the unique strains the organization was facing in conducting the research. As such, novel processes had to be developed and reinforced to ensure adequate data collection and analysis. We involved considerations for a variety of perspectives that may be shared by survivors in our data collection approach. We would do this in the future, with more frequent check-ins with participants and staff.

The collaboration consisted of frequent communication between the researchers and the organization. Additionally, site visits happened semi-annually. Key outcomes included – efficacy of the intervention was established, adaptive technology was created, and we found evidence of a successful collaboration. The neurofeedback intervention resulted in statistically significant decreases in depression, anxiety, PTSD, and disability symptomology for survivors. Survivors also experienced normalization of brain activity. This provides evidence that neurofeedback can benefit the well-being of survivors. Given the distance between Michigan and Texas, a system was created for checking in, transferring data, and ensuring that all necessary tasks were completed. A particularly novel component of this collaboration was the creation of an app for mobile phones that allowed for data to be transferred securely from Texas, in areas where Wi-Fi may not be present, to Michigan. The creation of a mobile phone app can be replicated. This was an important aspect of conducting research with a population where safety was critical, and Wi-Fi may not always be accessible.  Finishing the project, and creating tools to do so, is in itself an indicator that the collaboration was successful. However, this project resulted in a host of other products such as publications, technical reports, presentations, and an awarded grant which also indicate that this collaboration produced well-recognized resources. Not a traditional metric, but one of great importance to the authors is the fact that both the agency and the researchers wish to work together in the future.

Lessons Learned

Over the course of the 3-year collaboration, we learned many lessons about conducting rigorous research with community partners who serve survivors of gender-based violence. However, we highlight the four biggest takeaways from our collaboration – (1) communication, (2) trust, (3) buy-in, and (4) resources. It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a perfect collaboration. Collaborations can be successful, produce important results, and still face challenges. It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a perfect collaboration. Collaborations can be successful, produce important results, and still face challenges. That is true of our collaboration, in which we did face challenges. For domestic violence agencies, there is one overarching consideration that impacts the four takeaways we will discuss below – turnover and movement of staff. Turnover and movement of staff is relatively common in community agencies and that means that there is a constant need to set and reset expectations to make sure everyone has the same information about the project and what is expected of them. These expectations need to be reinforced frequently to ensure there are no issues that need to be addressed. For example, in the first 3 years of our collaboration, we experienced 3 different neurofeedback team leads and have seen the neurofeedback clinical team have full turnover twice. Our experience underlines the importance of consistently resetting expectations.


We have found in collaborations with multiple parties, particularly those that are conducted long-distance, communication is perhaps the most important ingredient for success. How do you work collaboratively when not in the same space? For us, it was critical to use technology. We used secure platforms to share information and have important conversations. However, having conversations is not enough. It is important these conversations do not use jargon. For example, there are certain technical terms that researchers or practitioners may use which are not clear and can lead to confusion. It’s also important to share perspectives on what the priorities are for different parties. For example, researchers may be worried about things such as missing data whereas counselors may be more willing to collect minimal data in an effort to move on to the next survivor more quickly or to protect survivor confidentiality. Communication is complicated, especially at a distance. It’s important to realize you may do the best you can and still have problems communicating. Defining modes of communication, and what expectations are, is also critical. For example, what constitutes an email versus a call, how frequent those communications will be, and what expectations are for when those communications will be returned.

It is critical that there is trust between all parties. The survivors must trust the community partner and the researchers, the community partners must trust the researchers, and the researchers must trust the community partners and the survivors. This can create a complex web of dynamics that can be vulnerable to changes and miscommunications. In our collaboration, there were moments where trust and understanding between the researchers and the community partners were limited. In retrospect, it was important for community partners and researchers to sit down and share their perspectives and approach to work. For example, researchers may be more focused on details like completing paperwork properly or recruitment and retention of participants. Whereas, community partners may be more focused on completing interventions or connecting survivors to resources. In both cases, these duties are appropriate for the position but given the rapidly changing needs of survivors, the priorities may not be in alignment across groups. It is critical for both parties to understand where the other is coming from and trust that the necessary steps for the project will be completed. Collaborations should tackle this issue by communicating freely and openly and not resulting in micromanaging or avoiding these issues. Collaborators must trust that all members of the collaboration will do their part and be transparent if and when issues arise. In our case, this impacted survivors’ access to the project because at times, due to other survivor or agency demands, staff members were not actively talking to survivors about the project and what it may entail to become involved and learn more.

Ensuring that researchers, community stakeholders, and survivors have bought into the project and understand the project plan is important in ensuring things run smoothly. While the project itself may involve conducting research, it’s important to elicit feedback from the other collaborators at all aspects of the process. In our case, we asked staff members and survivors to provide feedback on the project design and survey. We hosted a multi-day training to talk through the process, the questions we were asking, and gather feedback on what we should know to inform the project moving forward. However, as referenced above, these agencies may experience frequent turnover of staff movement. As such, is it important to check in about buy-in over the course of the project – but particularly when there are transitions.

Working with community partners, who are often over-burdened and under-resourced, requires acknowledgment and supplementation from other collaborators. In our case, it was important for the researchers to design and adjust the project to best meet the needs of the community partner and survivors. We did this by:

  • Taking over aspects of the project like data collection to the extent that was allowable given distance and travel,
  • Hiring staff members as research assistants to help with data collection; and
  • Creating a phone application that allowed for information necessary for the project to be directly transmitted to a secure server at MSU.

While for many of our lessons learned, we have concrete suggestions for future work, we do find ourselves with one lesson we have learned but have not solved. A constant challenge on this project was learning how to deal with staff burnout – both in their roles and in regard to the research project. For example, as we’ve mentioned staff at these agencies are often overburdened and under-resourced. Participating in research can exacerbate these issues and lead to a faster rate of burnout or what we observed and have called “research fatigue”. We believe that having a place to vent frustrations about the research project so they may be dealt with is a promising thought. However, this is a bit complicated as it seems that staff may be unsure of the appropriate avenue to share these concerns – whether it should be their agency supervisor or a member of the research team.

Research Process

A relatively unique aspect of this project was the willingness of staff to engage in all aspects of the research process. Members of FBWC were engaged throughout the entire process from project conceptualization to dissemination of information. The key stakeholder, Joshua Brown, was eager to be involved in research. However, this was only possible because Dessie Clark suggested the possibility and Joshua didn’t know that it is unusual for community partners to be involved. This highlights the importance for researchers and community partners to be talking about research, the degree to which each member wants to be involved, and what expectations will be. The authors of this chapter had many conversations about authorship on all the produced works and what workload and timeline would look like to live up to these expectations.

Looking Forward

As we continue to move forward, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the impacts of COVID-19 on the intimate partner survivors, the agencies (such as Fort Bend Women’s Center) that serve them, and research for those housed in a University setting. Before COVID-19 we imagined continuing our work in many of the same ways. We had applied for future grants and dreamed of expanding our work to examine the children’s neurofeedback program at Fort Bend Women’s Center. While we hope that eventually conducting our work, in-person, will continue, it seems prudent to reimagine what working together will look like in our altered state. It is the intention of the authors to continue collaborating. However, this may require adjusting to continue working in a virtual matter. Given the fact that technology has already been an important part of our process as long-distance partners, we hope that future work uses those technologies (digital survey platform, phone app for information transfer, etc.) to continue to collect important information that ultimately benefits survivors and their communities.


While gender-based violence is often examined at the individual level, communities play an important role in how gender-based violence is addressed and how survivors are supported. Communities can be a tremendous source of support for survivors by providing social support through which these individuals can access resources, and connect to services. In this way, communities have the potential to be a tremendous source of support for survivors. Or, in contrast, communities can impose substantial barriers on survivors and their families. Since structurally, communities are located closest to survivors, understanding how gender-based violence is addressed by, and within, communities is important in understanding and confronting gender-based violence as a society. The nature of this work was relatively clinical in nature (e.g. neurofeedback) where community relationships and community-engaged research are not a typical fixture. This effort provides suggestions for how those in clinical disciplines, like clinical psychology or social work, may conduct work with community psychologists that are more interdisciplinary in nature.

Further recommendations include:

  • Examining how those who do more clinical/individual work may engage with communities,
  • The use of technology to conduct and engage in community work, and
  • How researchers may do work in communities that is rigorous, such as the waitlist control trial done here, and is not limited to that which can be done inside a lab.

A frequent conversation between the authors of this article was about the wall that exists between researchers and communities. Often, it is assumed that communities do not value or understand research. Or, conversely, that any research that can be done in community settings is not rigorous or worthwhile. Our experiences show the inaccuracy of these assumptions. Fort Bend Women’s Center created the neurofeedback program with research in mind. They implemented best practices and collected necessary data. While they didn’t have the resources to compile and analyze the data in ways that could be presented to the scientific community – they were certainly open and eager for the opportunity. Additionally, the research that has been done in this collaboration so far has been recognized widely and invited to contribute to special issues and conference keynotes – a marker of success in the scientific community. This was successful because people, located in very different spaces, were willing to discuss how they could meet in the middle to accomplish a common goal. The experiences of survivors happen in real-world settings and it was important to capture their lived experiences in that setting.

It is important to take the time on the front end to develop a plan. But, also, recognizing that plan likely will change. There should be explicit plans for action with turnover and communication. The priorities of the work should be established and reinforced. This includes defining what priorities are overlapping, and what priorities are important to researchers and community partners so they can work together effectively. Given the fluid nature of research, domestic violence organizations, and survivors it is important for everyone to be willing to adapt. Researchers may be forced to make changes to the research plan, particularly to meet staff and survivors’ needs. The agency may need to adapt to ensure that the research components fit into their own expectations and be willing to give feedback if they do not so adjustments can be made.

Implications for Community Psychology

There has been a multitude of promising results from this project including, establishing the efficacy of the intervention, creation of adaptive technology, and evidence of successful collaboration. In our case, researchers and community partners have published and presented in academic spaces and created a technical report for practitioners. Community psychology theory often focuses on engaging local communities that are relatively close to the research team. This case study has implications for how to do community-engaged research over a long distance using various technologies. This has the potential to further the conversation on how we can engage and work with communities when physical access may not be possible. This is important as funding and travel can pose barriers to certain populations and novel ways of doing this work may present additional opportunities for other researchers.

The authors of this case story believe that finding creative ways to manage mostly virtual relationships, as we have done here, has always been a critical component of doing community psychology work. However, as we wrote this chapter during COVID-19 we realized that what has been important to those of us striving to reach vulnerable populations in hard-to-reach locations is now a standard challenge. While community psychology has always pushed innovative ways to do community work, limited conversations have evolved on how adaptive technology could and should be used to try to ensure successful collaborations, particularly collaborations across distance.

From Theory to Practice Reflections and Questions

  • Gender-based violence is a rapidly growing social concern and even more so as the world continues to grapple with the effects of Covid-19 (Clark & Brown, 2021). How does the discussion in this case study challenge your thinking regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI) and gender-based violence?
  • Reflect upon conversations you have heard and/or had on gender-based violence. List 3-5 statements you have heard. Based on these statements what would you consider about society’s response to this issue? If you have not heard any stereotypical or other statements, research 3-5 statements and answer the same question.
  • How would you go about creating an alternate setting to address this challenge in the community?

Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (n.d.).The Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel

Case Studies in Community Psychology Practice: A Global Lens Copyright © 2021 by See Contributors Page for list of authors (Edited by Geraldine Palmer, Todd Rogers, Judah Viola, and Maronica Engel) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Left of header image:  Feminists At Law header text logo, suspended red and grey bars behind text at varying intervals and lengths.  Right of header image, black text on white background; an open access journal of feminist legal scholarship.  ISSN 2046-9551

Criminal Justice Policy and Victim-Survivor Empowerment: A Case Study of Domestic Violence Disclosure Schemes in England and Wales

  • Charlotte Barlow University of Central Lancashire
  • Sandra Walklate University of Liverpool
  • Nicole Renehan Durham University

Empowering victim-survivors has long been recognised as one key strategy in reducing domestic abuse. This article explores whether Domestic Violence Disclosure Schemes as a criminal justice response to preventing domestic abuse in the United Kingdom are experienced as empowering in practice. Centralising victim-survivor voices, this article argues that variability in experiences of feeling empowered or disempowered pivoted upon whether those who deliver the scheme adopted an incident or process focussed approach. It concludes that while such schemes can be empowering when concomitant support is forthcoming, ultimately the victim-survivors in this study were left feeling disillusioned because of the disparities between what was expected and the limits of what was delivered in practice.

Author Biographies

Charlotte barlow, university of central lancashire.

Reader in Criminal Justice and Policing, School of Law and Policing, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

Sandra Walklate, University of Liverpool

Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Liverpool, UK.

Nicole Renehan, Durham University

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Durham University, UK.

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  • Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work for any purposs with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
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  • Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access ).


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This half-day workshop will provide a space to discuss ways in which we can creatively think about equality law and praxis including forms of inequality that are currently excluded by the existing legal framework.

We need a feminist approach to tackling inflation

In response to the Bank of England’s decision to maintain Bank Rate at 5.25%, the Women’s Budget Group, the UK’s leading feminist economics think tank, says high interest rates will continue to hurt millions of women struggling with mortgage payments and debts.

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case study about domestic abuse

As Technology Evolves, so Does Domestic Violence: Modern-Day Tech Abuse and Possible Solutions

The Emerald International Handbook of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse

ISBN : 978-1-83982-849-2 , eISBN : 978-1-83982-848-5

Publication date: 4 June 2021

The reality of domestic violence does not disappear when people enter the digital world, as abusers may use technology to stalk, exploit, and control their victims. In this chapter, we discuss three unique types of technological abuse: (1) financial abuse via banking websites and apps; (2) abuse via smart home devices (i.e., “Internet of Things” abuse); and (3) stalking via geo-location or GPS. We also argue pregnancy and wellness apps provide an opportunity for meaningful intervention for pregnant victims of domestic violence.

While there is no way to ensure users' safety in all situations, we argue thoughtful considerations while designing and building digital products can result in meaningful contributions to victims' safety. This chapter concludes with PenzeyMoog's (2020) “Framework for Inclusive Safety,” which is a roadmap for building technology that increases the safety of domestic violence survivors. This framework includes three key points: (1) the importance of educating technologists about domestic violence; (2) the importance of identifying possible abuse situations and designing against them; and (3) identifying user interactions that might signal abuse and offering safe interventions.

  • Financial abuse
  • Coercive control
  • Smart home device abuse
  • Pregnancy apps
  • Inclusive safety

PenzeyMoog, E. and Slakoff, D.C. (2021), "As Technology Evolves, so Does Domestic Violence: Modern-Day Tech Abuse and Possible Solutions", Bailey, J. , Flynn, A. and Henry, N. (Ed.) The Emerald International Handbook of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse ( Emerald Studies In Digital Crime, Technology and Social Harms ), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 643-662.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Eva PenzeyMoog and Danielle C. Slakoff. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This chapter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of these chapters (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

This chapter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of these chapters (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at .


People who work in tech define rare instances of user harm as “edge cases.” In tech, defining an issue as an “edge case” can be used as an excuse to ignore the issue; it is not worth fixing because only a small number of people will be impacted ( Meyer, 2020 ). Domestic violence is not an “edge case.” Globally, 137 women are killed by a member of their household each day ( United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2018 ). In reality, domestic violence is common, and technologists (designers, programmers, project managers, and others who influence the creation of digital products) must acknowledge its reality and plan for it within products.

Domestic violence refers to violence at the hands of a family member, roommate, intimate partner, or someone else in one's domestic setting ( United States Department of Justice, n.d.a ). Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to violence at the hands of a current or former intimate partner ( World Health Organization, 2017 ). The World Health Organization (2017) found one-third of women will experience intimate partner violence worldwide, and 90 to 95 percent of IPV involves a male perpetrator and female victim ( Belknap & Melton, 2005 ). Intimate partner violence in the United States (US) cuts across all genders, races, and social classes ( Petrosky, Blair, BetzFowler, Jack, & Lyons, 2017 ) and includes physical, financial, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse.

The reality of domestic violence does not disappear when people enter the digital world, as abusers may use technology to stalk, exploit, and control their victims. In this chapter, we use vignettes to discuss three types of technological abuse: (1) financial abuse; (2) abuse via smart home devices; and (3) stalking via geo-location or GPS. We also argue pregnancy and wellness apps provide an opportunity for meaningful intervention for pregnant victims of domestic violence.

While there is no way to ensure users' safety in all situations, we argue thoughtful considerations while designing and building digital products can result in meaningful contributions to victims' safety. We also argue that PenzeyMoog's (2020) “Framework for Inclusive Safety,” included in this chapter, provides a roadmap for building technology that increases the safety of domestic violence survivors.

As a technologist who speaks at public events, PenzeyMoog is sometimes approached by survivors of technology-related abuse. The scenarios and vignettes in this chapter draw upon the victims' experiences as described in these casual conversations. The vignettes (and all dialog) are not word-for-word descriptions of events, but instead serve to illustrate key concepts in the chapter. All conversations occurred between 2017 and 2019, and all identifying information has been removed.

Coercive Control and Technology-Facilitated Intimate Partner Violence: A Brief Summary

“Coercive control” is an aspect of intimate partner violence that includes emotional terrorism and the continued dominance of one person over another person ( Stark, 2006 , 2007 ). Coercive control features both implicit and explicit intimidation and threatening behaviors by the perpetrator ( Stark, 2006 , 2007 ) and an emphasis on limiting the victim/survivor's independence ( Robertson & Murachver, 2011 ). In the wrong hands, technology can be used to increase a perpetrator's control over a victim/survivor's life by limiting her independence and instilling fear ( Douglas, Harris, & Dragiewicz, 2019 ). Importantly, technology-based domestic abuse is very likely an additional form of abuse perpetrated in the relationship ( Harris, 2018 ; Lyndon, Bonds-Raacke, & Cratty, 2011 ).

In her seminal study of domestic violence support practitioners in Australia, Woodlock (2013) found almost all (98%) had assisted a survivor of intimate partner violence with technology-based abuse. Moreover, during in-depth interviews with 30 female victims/survivors, George and Harris (2014) discovered each one had experienced some sort of abuse or surveillance through technology. Importantly, instances of technology-related stalking – often featuring unwanted phone calls and surveillance – are a risk factor for domestic homicide ( McFarlane, Campbell, & Watson, 2002 ). Along the same vein, the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board (2017) acknowledged that technology-facilitated abuse was “an emerging trend” across cases of domestic homicide (p. 2). Simply stated, technology-facilitated abuse must be taken seriously as a form of oppression and control.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is among the most powerful methods abusers have to keep a survivor in a relationship and to diminish their ability to safely leave ( National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2014 ). According to a study of survivors enrolled in a financial literacy program in the United States ( Postmus, Plummer, McMahon, Murshid, & Kim, 2012 ), 94% had experienced some element of financial abuse while in their abusive relationship (see also National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2014 ). When someone is on an allowance, or when an abuser knows about all the purchases their partner makes, leaving the relationship can seem impossible. Simply put, many survivors do not know how they are going to survive financially if they leave ( Hunter, 2006 ).

Helen and Isaac opened a joint bank account. Isaac quickly took control of the pair's money. Each month, he created a budget, paid the bills, and moved their income into various savings accounts.
When Helen logged into the joint account from a new computer or from a new Wifi network, she was faced with identity questions about Isaac, despite having the password. These questions asked about old addresses and house numbers. In order to access the account, she needed to ask Isaac for the answers. One day, he refused to give her the answers, saying he had their finances under control. She tried logging into the banking app on her phone, only to see that the password was changed. She could no longer access her money. (Case study 1)

Helen's experience is common. Often, survivors are not provided or allowed access to their own money ( National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2014 ), and this compounds the survivor's reliance on the abuser. In this way, the survivor's lack of financial independence is yet another means of coercive control.

Importantly, there are some key ways technology design could work to reduce this type of financial abuse. Joint accounts should be accessible by both parties, and each joint account should have two separate logins as well as identity verification questions tied to each individual. Moreover, banks, credit card companies, and other groups who work within the personal finance space, should flag suspicious account activity that could point to financial abuse, such as constantly changing passwords in joint accounts.

Changes in typical banking patterns.

Erratic or unusual banking transactions.

Frequent large withdrawals.

Daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM.

Sudden non-sufficient fund activity.

Uncharacteristic nonpayment for bank or financial services.

Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.

Closing certificate of deposit or bank accounts without regard to penalties.

These indicators of elder abuse are signs of financial abuse more generally. All customers who display these warning signs warrant some form of outreach. Customers could receive a call from a banker trained in financial abuse detection to discuss the troubling behavior. This communication could assist victims of financial abuse as they may not yet have recognized the abuse, or they may be unsure if the behavior is abnormal and abusive.

Credit card companies could do similar outreach. A common tactic of abusers is ruining the credit of their partner by opening credit cards and/or taking out loans in the name of their partner, which gives the abuser access to funds without the risk of ruining their own credit ( Becky's Fund, n.d. ). Customers who have been reliable credit card holders but suddenly open multiple accounts or have a lot of unusual account activity could receive a “check-in” call to ensure nothing is amiss. Of course, people in these industries should not make assumptions about whether abuse is occurring. Moreover, a survivor may not be safe enough to discuss it, or they may already be taking steps to safely leave the relationship. These phone calls, however, could be a starting point.

Vivian, a customer at Australia's Commonwealth Bank reported that, when she told a customer support representative she was disentangling her finances from her soon-to-be ex-husband, the representative, without asking about intimate partner violence directly, asked her questions designed to keep a survivor safe, such as: “Is it safe to receive mail about the changes in banking at home?” and “Do you need assistance finding a new branch?”. (Case Study 2)

In all US states except New York, workers at banks and other financial institutions are required to report suspected elder financial abuse to appropriate law enforcement, Elder Care Service providers, and/or human resource workers for the county ( Stetson Law, n.d ; US Department of Justice, n.d.b ); these workers are empowered through training to recognize and support possible victims. This same protocol could be implemented for victims of IPV generally. Most states in the US have laws that define financial abuse of the elderly as a crime ( Morton, 2018 ). However, there is no similar law defining financial abuse of an intimate partner as a crime. In other countries, such as Australia, financial abuse – in the context of family violence – is criminalized federally, as well as in the individual state and territory jurisdictions (see Australia's Family Law Act 1975 [Cth]).

US Senator Patty Murray introduced a bill in 2007 to the 110th Congress that would have strengthened financial protections for survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault ( GovTrack, 2007 ). The bill did not make it to a vote before the end of the 110th Congress, which meant that it was cleared from the books ( GovTrack, 2007 ). Murray proposed a similar law in early 2019, and at the time of writing, there still has not been a formal vote on it ( S.627 - SAFE Act of 2019 ). A law focused on the financial abuse of an intimate partner is an essential step toward helping people regain financial control during – or after – an abusive relationship. As it stands, lack of financial security is one of the primary reasons survivors do not leave or quickly return to an abuser ( Sharp-Jeffs, 2015 ). Technologists in the financial sector have a significant opportunity to prevent abuse as well as recognize when it is happening and offer support.

Internet of Things/Smart Home Device Abuse

Lisa and Ben use an Amazon Echo to connect to their Nest thermostat, Ring doorbell, and touchpad smart lock. Ben installed all of these devices. Lisa is home alone while Ben is traveling when the lights suddenly go out. She uses a phone app to turn them back on  –  and they go out again. Feeling scared, Lisa leaves the house, hoping that the issue with the lights will be over once she returns.
When she returns home and enters the code into the touchpad on the front door's smart lock, the buttons flash red and the door remains locked. She tries again and, still, it is locked. She calls Ben. “Are you sure you're doing the right code? 1564?” Ben asks.
“The code is 1546,” says Lisa. “1564. Write it down. That's always been the code. You know I won't always be available when you forget things,” said Ben, exasperated. Lisa is sure she knew the code, but drops it.
Later, while making lunch, Lisa starts sweating. She looks at the Nest thermostat: it is set to 90 ° F. Suddenly, the phone rings. “Why do you have the temperature set to 90 degrees on the Nest? What the hell are you doing?” “I haven't touched it!” says Lisa. “I'm turning it down,” says Ben. “Why can't you figure out these things? It's not that hard.” He hangs up.
Lisa is upset about the home device issues and how Ben is treating her. She calls her sister to talk through what's going on, and explains that Ben must be behind some of the issues. The chat is interrupted; Ben is calling again. She answers. Ben asks her how night is going and asks if she'd “talked to her sister lately?”. Shocked, Lisa asks, “How did you know?”
“It's just a question. Why are you so paranoid?”. (Case Study 3)

Of course, Ben did know Lisa was talking to her sister. He knew because of an Amazon Echo feature that lets him use it as a listening device ( Graham, 2019 ). The “drop in call” feature is useful in some situations. For example, if someone is at home and their phone is dead or in another room, their partner can call them through the drop-in feature. If prior “permission” has been granted, the Amazon Echo simply gives an alert of an incoming call, and the call starts. With the use of an Echo Show (Amazon's tablet), an abuser can create a makeshift home security system that lets you “drop in” on various tablets around the house. This is how Ben monitors Lisa's activity.

Ben was “gaslighting” Lisa by controlling all the smart home devices from apps on his phone. He made Lisa think she was losing touch with reality – she couldn't trust her own experience ( Stark, 2019 ). Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where an abuser causes harm and then denies the harm, causing confusion for the victim/survivor ( Stark, 2019 ; Sweet, 2019 ). Gaslighting is a common form of psychological abuse used against domestic violence victims and reaffirms one person's power over another by causing the victim to feel like they are “going crazy” ( Sweet, 2019 ). Smart home devices gave Ben new opportunities to gaslight Lisa.

According to the research firm Statista (2020) , over half of all US households will have at least one smart home device by 2024. As such, abuse through smart home devices is becoming, and will continue to become, increasingly common ( Bowles, 2018 ). Domestic violence helpline workers polled in 2018 reported an increase in calls focused on smart home devices since 2017, and lawyers are currently working on how to include smart home devices in restraining orders ( Bowles, 2018 ).

Eva Galperin, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Director of Cybersecurity, explains that abusers often restrict access to necessary apps and choose not to educate their victims about how the product works ( Bowles, 2018 ). She explains: “They're not sure how their abuser is getting in and they're not necessarily able to figure it out because they don't know how the systems work” (as cited in Bowles, 2018 , para 24). Sometimes abusers will not set up the necessary app on their victim's phone, or they will withhold passwords in order to ensure control over the product. Victims with knowledge of – and access to – the product are in a better position to stop and recognize the abuse.

Attorney Alexis Moore, a cyberstalking expert, described working with a client whose abuser “would remotely turn on the heat in the survivor's house” during the hottest days of the year, “just to unnerve her and remind her he was in control” (as cited in Kippert, 2019 , para 4). Moore described another abuser who would remotely unlock a survivor's home and car doors and then would describe her as an unfit parent for not being able to maintain security ( Kippert, 2019 ). Moore further described abusers listening to their victims through Amazon Alexas and Echos, smart TVs, and home security cameras ( Kippert, 2019 ).

One way to prevent gaslighting and abuse via smart home devices is to include an “activity log” within the user interface. At the time of writing, Nests do not show the user this information. An activity log – which would include what time a user changed the temperature – would provide a timeline of activity to the victim. Moreover, an activity log could help victims explain and prove technological abuse to law enforcement.

Importantly, technologists must explore the potential for abuse in the “activity log” fix. Potentially, abusers could use these logs to keep tabs on victims (e.g., determine their victim's comings-and-goings via the thermostat). While a valid concern, we believe giving the victim the power to fight gaslighting and have “proof” of abuse for police or legal proceedings is an important step. Until all smart home devices show history logs, survivors should make efforts to record smart home abuse details.

Internet of Things devices should also enact basic principles of security, such as requiring strong passwords and two-factor authentication and logging all users out when the password is reset. In 2019, multiple reports described people hacking into Ring cameras ( Hanrahan, 2019 ), often talking to children ( Paul, 2019 ). And while at least one police department has been trying to help survivors by giving them free Ring devices ( Eaton, 2019 ), survivors should use the product with caution. In 2018, Ring did not log out all parties after a password change, a basic safety precaution given abusers may have the old password and would still have access. This protocol has changed, but a test showed it took several hours to log out all logged-in users ( Chang, 2018 ).

Devices should also have phone numbers to support centers on the device itself and within the app, and customer service representatives should understand the realities of abuse enacted through the device and how to support victims. Companies, while likely unable to fully prevent abuse, are responsible for doing everything possible to prevent abuse and to assist those who do experience abuse through their products.

Given the issues with unwanted “drop in” calls on smart devices, we recommend all two-way communication via smart devices follow the standard model of calls to a cell phone, in which the contact number or name is displayed and the call recipient may accept or decline it. Although many use these devices to monitor their own home or to communicate with friends and family, abuse via these devices must be recognized and planned for.

Domestic violence laws must be updated to include abuse via smart home devices. Police officers, who are often on the front lines of survivor support when responding to domestic violence, should be trained on smart home device abuse. Judges should include the termination of abuse through known and unknown smart home devices in civil no-contact orders. And, a large-scale survey about smart home device abuse is desperately needed.

Erica broke up with John due to his controlling behavior. After the break-up, he began to appear where she was; first at a coffee shop, and then at a restaurant. John was stalking Erica, and though she quickly stopped posting her location on social media and changed the password to any accounts he might have access to, the stalking continued. One day, while driving her Land Rover, the air conditioner turned off. She turned it on, only for it to turn off again. After a few failed attempts, she figured the unit was broken. When she returned to her car after work, all the windows were down, though she knew they were left rolled up. Erica realized John must have control over her car. After a call with Land Rover's customer support, she discovered a second person using the Land Rover app to connect with her car. John accompanied her when she purchased the car, so he knew the registration information needed to connect his app. Without Erica knowing, John knew the car's location at all times, and he had power over the temperature, windows, and could remotely start the car. (Case Study 4)

Before digital automobile interfaces, abusive partners could simply check the odometer of the victim's car to see if they had driven any extra miles ( Fazzini, 2018 ). In the modern age of digitized car controls, abusers have new methods of stalking. Woodlock (2013) found abusers use monitoring technology not just for stalking, but to “create a sense of omnipresence” and to isolate, punish, and humiliate victims (p. 5). The Land Rover InControl app is one example of a product that can be subverted for stalking.

Importantly, while some abusers use spyware to stalk victims, it is more common for them to use legal monitoring apps such as parental control apps, Find My, and theft trackers ( Levy, 2018 ). Designed without intimate partner violence in mind, these apps are weaponized by abusers, often without their victims' knowledge ( Levy, 2018 ). Levy (2018) describes how – for victims of technology-facilitated stalking within a domestic violence context – access credentials such as passwords or security questions are ineffective at keeping an intimate partner out of the victim's accounts. Answers to security questions can often be guessed by an intimate partner, and it may be possible to get someone's passwords via threat of violence. Privacy experts must look beyond the “stranger danger” mentality and create solutions for users whose threat comes from inside the home.

As part of a story on technology-facilitated stalking, a Wired magazine writer asked his wife to attempt to secretly monitor his location ( Greenberg, 2019b ). During his shower, she set up a discrete monitoring method on his phone ( Greenberg, 2019b ). A popular application sends the user emails summarizing who their location has been shared with, which is a positive step in recognizing possible misuse. However, Greenberg (2019b) noted he did not receive an email the first day. Importantly, the app's creator partnered with domestic violence organizations to modify features that abusers weaponized ( Newman, 2017 ). This practice should be standard across all technology companies.

While many abusers stalk their victims through the use of legitimate apps, others turn to specifically designed “stalkerware” products. In 2018, over 200 apps and services catering to would-be stalkers were identified, with features ranging from location tracking to recovering deleted texts from someone's phone ( Valentino-Devries, 2018 ). Many apps are marketed as tools to monitor children's mobile phone use, but can be exploited. While the desire to keep children safe is understandable, evidence shows invasive snooping does more harm than good ( Ghosh, Badillo-Urquiola, Guha, LaViola Jr., & Wisniewski, 2018 ). Indeed, such apps are an invasion of the child's privacy ( Lashbrook, 2019 ) and may be used by abusive parents to surveil their adult or minor children ( Ohlheiser, 2019 ). For example, SMS Tracker is a child safety product aimed at helping parents. In 2013, a man installed the app on his wife's phone days before murdering her ( Valentino-Devries, 2018 ). Company representatives declined to comment on the app's role in the murder ( Valentino-Devries, 2018 ).

Current law prohibits stalking, but it is not illegal to monitor the location of one's child or install tracking software on one's own phone ( Lashbrook, 2019 ). Most tracking software companies tell users to follow local and federal laws while selling products the purchaser can use to break the law. These companies exist in a legal gray area, and current laws are not placing responsibility on these companies for creating products used for intimate partner stalking.

Eva Galperin, Director of Cyber Security for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, calls stalkerware products “spouseware” because of the high prevalence of people using them to spy on their spouses ( Greenberg, 2019a , para 2). She is currently pushing antivirus companies to include stalkerware detection in their products. Galperin hopes that, when a user scans their device for malware or viruses using antivirus software, the program will also search for tracking apps ( Greenberg, 2019a ).

We suggest the following design protocol for GPS-connected apps and services: first, any product with a GPS locator must notify the user when GPS is active, and the product should allow the user to see who has access to the device's location. This information should be immediately visible to the user and not buried within a complex user interface. Moreover, a user should be able to quickly remove unwanted users from having access to their location.

Going Further: The Potential for Intervention within Health, Pregnancy, and Wellness Products

Sandra and Jake had been together for five years when she became pregnant. Jake's physical violence had become a standard part of their relationship. Every few months, something small would set him off. Once, it was Sandra going out with friends after work. Another time, it was finding dirty dishes in the sink. Sometimes, Sandra could calm him down before he attacked, but not always. She was hopeful that it would be different now that she was pregnant, and that having a baby would finally mean an end to the violence she'd endured for years. But, she was wrong. (Case Study 5)

Domestic violence against pregnant women is a serious worldwide problem. In the US, 20% of pregnant women experience domestic violence ( Parsons, Goodwin, & Peterson, 2000 ). The World Health Organization (2011) found physical violence rates against pregnant women ranging from 1% (Japan) to 28% (Peru). In Africa, the rate of physical violence against pregnant partners is 23–40% ( World Health Organization, 2011 ). In America, murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women, with most assailants being intimate partners ( Chang, Berg, Saltzman, & Herndon, 2005 ).

Given an abuser's goal of maintaining control over their victim, the prevalence of violence during pregnancy is not surprising. Indeed, pregnancy marks a turning point in people's lives, and priorities can change. A pregnant person's increased interest in their baby and sometimes diminished physical and emotional availability to their partner can lead an abuser to attempt to regain control via violence ( Campo, 2015 ).

We believe medical professionals remain the most promising point of intervention for pregnant survivors of domestic violence because most women killed during pregnancy “come into contact with the healthcare system before their deaths” ( Frye, 2001 ). In the age of mobile apps acting as supplementary (or surrogate) medical care, we believe medical, health, and wellness-related apps can be designed to provide help or information to pregnant domestic violence victims.

Thankfully, this type of intervention is already happening in an inadvertent way. The fertility app Glow has reported that users frequently post on the message boards describing abuse and seeking advice ( Moscatello, 2017 ). The use of the message boards as a safe space to ask for help is unsurprising, given that online support spaces are sometimes safer (and less obvious to perpetrators) to utilize than in-person services ( Finn & Atkinson, 2009 ). Moreover, abusers who monitor the victim's online activity often look at browser history ( Finn & Atkinson, 2009 ); a fertility app is a much less obvious place to look ( Moscatello, 2017 ).

While pregnant victims seeking out and receiving advice through fertility message boards is a positive development, pregnancy and health app developers should be intentional about supporting survivors, rather than waiting for them to report abuse. Consideration should be given to how the product could recognize potential abuse and offer support.

Apps should offer users a way to record injuries. If a user records an injury, word recognition from the injury description could trigger an automated response related to domestic violence. This message could say, “This injury could be due to interpersonal conflict. Are you safe? Would you like to see some resources that can help?”. App developers can include resources such as the National Domestic Violence hotline number, the addresses and phone numbers of local domestic violence shelters, and a summary of safety planning. The message should encourage the user to write down the information and keep it somewhere the abuser could not find it. Moreover, the survivor should be told to use false names if saving a number in their phone.

A second method of assisting pregnant people experiencing abuse is to have products designed to recognize forced pregnancy. Indeed, 8.6% (10.3 million) of women reported having had an intimate partner who tried to get them pregnant when they did not want to ( Black et al., 2011 ). Many fertility/period tracking apps gather information about the user's reason for using the app, and a user may report they are using the app to avoid pregnancy. Then, if the user reported having unprotected sex (a common feature in fertility apps), the app could ask the user to update their goals or provide information about the encounter. Of course, the user may not want to provide the information or may not be in a safe position to do so. Other options within the app might include reporting that the condom broke, that not using a condom was a mistake, or that their partner refused to wear one. Selecting this last option could trigger a message similar to the injury message, giving the user the option to continue on to a list of local resources. In this case, the list should include local family pregnancy crisis centers. A feature like this could also allow period tracking apps to identify if the user has survived a sexual assault, by providing an option that indicates the sexual encounter was not consensual. The resources listed could include nearby emergency rooms, RAINN's National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, and contact information for local sexual assault survivor advocacy groups.

Designers should consider the various reasons a user might decline help. One such concern might be that the button to view resources will take them out of the app and into a browser, which the abuser may monitor. A note next to the “yes” button should clearly state the user will stay within the app. This is merely one consideration. The worst case scenario when designing a feature meant to help survivors is to inadvertently alert the abuser that they are researching domestic violence resources, as this can cause further harm and increased monitoring. Given that the rate of both lethal and non-lethal violence soars when a victim leaves the relationship ( McGee, 2005 ), it is essential designers consider how to best hide when a victim is seeking outside help, services, and/or support.

The Framework for Inclusive Safety

In order to combat digital tools being used for abuse, we suggest technologists use PenzeyMoog's (2020) Framework for Inclusive Safety. The Framework's goal is to help technologists uncover ways their product will be misused, design against such misuse, and uncover possible areas where support or intervention might be offered to the user ( Fig. 38.1 ).

Fig. 38.1. 
The Framework for Inclusive Safety within the Design Process.

The Framework for Inclusive Safety within the Design Process.

Includes a domestic violence research lens.

Creates domestic violence personas.

Designs for domestic violence personas.

Identifies areas where user behavior may indicate abuse and how the product might offer support.

Includes usability test scenarios and stress testing.

Include Survivors of Domestic Violence in Design Research

Design research leads to better design and safer products. It is critical that developers include domestic violence research within their product ecosystem. First, a developer should research similar products and think critically about safety issues that have already been reported. For example, a team building a smart home device should consider how existing devices are used as abuse tools.

Second, when possible, research should include contact with survivors through surveys and interviews. These surveys or interviews should include a question in which the respondent can describe how the product has been (or could be) used for violence. For example, a team creating a banking app might include a survey question such as, “Can you describe a situation – whether personal or not – in which a financial product has been misused in order to exert financial control?” While more pointed questions are typically best practice for user experience research (the area of design that focuses on users and how they interact with a product), a broadly worded question such as this one gives respondents the freedom to safely respond.

Create Abuser and Survivor Personas

During research synthesis, designers typically identify the types of people the app or product is targeting and create personas for them. In addition to main archetypes, design teams should create two additional personas: an abuser and a survivor. The abuser persona is someone who can use the product to control, monitor, or harass their victim. The survivor persona is someone who can suffer abuse via the product.

Through this process, the design team may realize a survivor can be secretly surveilled via the product. The next step, then, is for the team to consider how a survivor could learn the abuse is happening. Alternatively, the survivor may know surveillance is happening but may not be aware of how to stop it. The design team then needs to consider how a survivor can regain control and power over their app use.

Identify and Design Against Abuse Cases

After research and research synthesis (steps one and two) are complete, the design team should include domestic violence abuse cases within their product design. They should draw upon abuse cases identified in their research and should brainstorm novel abuse cases. The three activities that follow are performed during steps three and four of the design process.

During the third step of the design process, we suggest design teams set aside time for a “Black Mirror Brainstorm” ( Lewis, 2018 ). This term – coined by designer Aaron Lewis (2018) – refers to the hit television series Black Mirror , a show in which promising technological advancements harm people. A “Black Mirror Brainstorm” session, then, tasks designers with considering the worst ways their products can be (mis)used.

Stress Testing: Stress testing – a term coined by designers Eric Meyer and Sara Watcher-Boettcher (2016) – is a process by which the design team uses their product through the eyes of someone having an extremely bad day (e.g., someone recently fired from a job). The design team should select a scenario, get into the mindset of someone experiencing a terrible day, and use the product. The design team should identify ways the design makes them feel worse – such as sarcastic text that might make a distressed person feel stupid. Once identified, these designs should be modified.

Abuse Testing: Design teams should get into the mindset of an abuser, a survivor, or both, depending on which makes the most sense for the product.

When doing this testing, best practice is to find real people who fit the characteristics, have them use the design, and give feedback. However, the ethics of finding someone experiencing their worst day and asking them to test your product are questionable. Similarly, it would be difficult to find a domestic abuser who would willingly product test and discuss how the product facilitates abuse. In these cases, it is acceptable for the design team to role-play and do the testing themselves. However, we do not recommend this approach for other attempts at inclusive design; for example, it would be inappropriate for a white designer to attempt to be in the mindset of Black user to ensure a product is racially inclusive. In this case, the team should hire members of those groups to do testing.

Identify Areas Where User Behavior May Indicate Abuse and How the Product Might Offer Support

If designed properly, financial products, as well as health, wellness, and pregnancy products, could help identify abusive behavior. The design team should conduct a full audit of the product's features and brainstorm what user behavior might indicate abuse. Moreover, they should discuss what resources would be most appropriate to include within the product if a user indicates abuse. Designers should also consider the user's level of safety if the product includes domestic violence resources.

A Final Note on the Importance of Diverse and Inclusive Teams

The importance of diverse, inclusive teams within technology companies is well-documented. Diversity can foster creativity, improve performance, help innovation ( Diversity in Tech, 2020 ; Forbes Technology Council, 2018 ), and promote empathy ( Walter, 2016 ). Indeed, it is important for technologists to be able to empathize with minority people who are discriminated against by other product users (e.g., when a white Airbnb host refuses to accept a booking from a Black user, as described by Romano, 2016 ). When people from multiple minority groups belong to a team, there is more open communication about product misuse.

Differences in social location, race, class, (dis)ability status, and the like can produce differential victim experiences with intimate partner violence. Although the scope of this chapter precluded us from an in-depth discussion of intersectionality, the authors want to acknowledge that the intersectional identities of survivors (e.g., their class, race, location, etc.) should also be identified and included during the design process. During the research phase of any product, designers should identify who their users are (along multiple dimensions). What designers learn about their users during the research phase should then be utilized during the ideation portion of the design process, with a goal of making the product work for all users.

Within the context of designing against domestic violence, it is imperative that women, who are disproportionately likely to be abuse survivors, are part of the teams creating digital products. However, survivors should not be expected to do the emotional work of convincing colleagues as domestic violence is a deadly, common occurrence. Workplace training about technology-based domestic violence can help all colleagues see the importance of designing against domestic violence.

Technology is used to perpetuate domestic abuse ( George & Harris, 2014 ; Woodlock, 2013 ) and is another mechanism by which abusers exert control and dominance over victims. As described in this chapter, technology can be used by abusers to financially control, stalk, or gaslight victims. Given the role of technology in abuse, coercive control, and stalking, it is vital that designers consider domestic violence when creating new technologies. The Framework for Inclusive Safety ( PenzeyMoog, 2020 ) provides technologists with actionable steps toward making products safer.

While technology is undoubtedly used in ways that are harmful toward victims, technology can also serve as a safe place for victims to receive discreet help and assistance ( Finn & Atkinson, 2009 ). As described in this chapter, we believe health, pregnancy, and wellness products can be designed to provide helpful resources in a safe manner. Ultimately, we recognize the limitations of single solutions used in isolation to stop domestic violence and encourage designers to use multiple techniques in order to ensure digital products are as safe and inclusive as possible. The framework detailed in this chapter provides a starting point.

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  1. Case Study Domestic Violence

    case study about domestic abuse

  2. Domestic Violence Facts and Statistics At A Glance

    case study about domestic abuse

  3. Huge rise in domestic abuse cases being dropped in England and Wales

    case study about domestic abuse

  4. (PDF) Interventions to Improve the Response of Professionals to

    case study about domestic abuse

  5. Domestic Violence Case Study

    case study about domestic abuse

  6. (PDF) Severe and Unusual domestic Violence; A Case Report and Review of

    case study about domestic abuse


  1. Battle against domestic abuse

  2. The Hideout: Toby's story about domestic abuse

  3. Afloat: The Process, IDC, IIT Bombay Student's Communication Design Project


  1. PDF SADIE'S STORY: A case study of the impacts of domestic and family

    A case study of the impacts of domestic and family violence on women and their children This case study is drawn from one of the interview participants in the 'Domestic and family violence and parenting: Mixed method insights into impact and support needs' research report led by Dr Rae Kaspiew and published by ANROWS.

  2. 'I didn't know it was abuse until I nearly died'

    Swamy's abuse of Abi was a textbook case of "serious, high-risk domestic abuse", she says. There was coercive control and emotional abuse, isolation - Swamy discouraged her from seeing friends and ...

  3. Case studies of domestic abuse

    These case studies of domestic abuse highlight some real stories. Psychological abuse - Marianna's story. I eventually became too afraid to do anything or make any decisions because I knew they'd be wrong, and I would be threatened. Read Marianna's story. Physical abuse - Jenny's story.

  4. Violence against women must stop; five stories of strength and survival

    24 November 2021 Women. Conflicts, humanitarian crises and increasing climate-related disasters have led to higher levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG), which has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing into sharp focus the urgent need to stem the scourge. Globally, nearly one-in-three women have experienced ...

  5. Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19

    One in 4 women and one in 10 men experience IPV, and violence can take various forms: it can be physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological. 2 People of all races, cultures, genders, sexual ...

  6. Domestic abuse: 'I was quite controlling, things needed to change'

    Dr Casebourne says the long-term impact domestic violence has on children means there is a strong moral case for finding out what works best for them, but with public services under such financial ...

  7. Hope, Agency, and the Lived Experience of Violence: A Qualitative

    DVA (also known as "domestic violence" or "DV" and "intimate partner violent" or "IPV") is defined as "any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality" (Home Office, 2018).

  8. Escaping domestic violence: A qualitative study of women who left their

    Introduction. Domestic violence (DV) is a global problem of epidemic proportions. 1 This form of violence encompasses physical, sexual, or psychological harm between husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, spouses, grandparents, uncles, aunts, relatives by marriage or individuals in family relationships. 2 The health consequences of ...

  9. Viewing a Tragic Case Through the Eyes of Investigators

    A man in Kittery, Maine, named Nelson Dion had pleaded guilty to federal charges of crossing state lines to violate a protection order. His former partner, Tanya Neal, was not around to see this ...

  10. Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review

    Domestic violence (or domestic abuse) includes various acts of violence—physical, sexual, and emotional—and, ... Regarding study design, case reports, cohort studies, cross-sectional studies, case series, and case-control studies were selected. Data and reports from organizations for domestic abuse, human rights organizations, or police ...

  11. Why Women Stay: Understanding the Trauma Bond Between Victim ...

    This qualitative study uses case studies from a private practice setting to understand the specific phenomenon of women's decisions about staying in abusive relationships. Case study methodology is particularly useful when the researcher attempts to explain behaviours through a single observation or several observations (Gerring 2009 ...

  12. Domestic abuse: learning from case reviews

    The learning from these case reviews highlights that professionals need to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the effect it can have on children, and not make assumptions about gender roles within relationships where there is domestic abuse. Professionals must prioritise the impact that living with domestic abuse has on children ...


    Tackling Domestic Violence From Many Angles 11 SIERRA LEONE: Getting at the Roots of 'Survival' Sex 21 MOROCCO: Pulling Together to Protect Women's Rights 31 COLOMBIA: Claiming the Right to Life and Health in a Region of Death 39 KENYA: Creating a Safe Haven, and a Better Future, for Maasai Girls Escaping Violence 49 TURKEY:

  14. Survivors' Stories

    A page of case studies, experiences and stories from actual male victims and survivors of domestic abuse, alongside links to media and on audio/video. ... of domestic abuse and are now survivors. Many men think the domestic abuse or domestic violence is only happening to them and no other man has suffered in the same way.

  15. Domestic abuse: 'The police didn't believe me... The trauma will never

    The trauma will never go away'. In March 2014, Valerie Forde and her one-year-old daughter Jahzara were murdered by her ex-partner. He attacked Ms Forde with a machete and a hammer and slit ...

  16. The perpetrators: inside the minds of men who abuse women

    In another study by the University of Northumbria, an intervention was found to have caused a 65% reduction in domestic and violent offending and a social return of £14 "saved" for every £1 ...

  17. One in four women experience domestic abuse before 50

    Wed 16 Feb 2022 18.30 EST. Last modified on Thu 17 Feb 2022 00.11 EST. More than one in four women worldwide experience domestic violence before the age of 50, according to the largest review of ...

  18. Domestic abuse cases abandoned too quickly when victims retreat

    A similar pattern may be present in domestic abuse cases. In nearly 20% of a sample of 78 cases examined "reasonable lines of inquiry had been missed", according to the joint report by HM ...

  19. Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

    The Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel-Developed by: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. The survivor population at Fort Bend Women's Center have experienced violence from a family member and/or sexual assault. FBWC data suggests that over half of the survivors seeking services at FBWC have experienced multiple traumatic experiences.

  20. Theorising victim decision making in the police response to domestic abuse

    However, few studies have focused on victims of crime, and fewer still on the decision-making process of domestic abuse victims (Taylor-Dunn, 2016). Instead, a focus on the victim tends to examine external factors that influence their cooperation with the investigation of a crime, rather than the internal mechanisms impacting their decision making.

  21. Coercive control: The women killed by abusive partners

    It often occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse. ... A Manchester Metropolitan University study analysed more than 300 domestic homicide reviews in England and Wales, between 2012 and 2018

  22. Exploring factors influencing domestic violence: a comprehensive study

    By investigating these factors, our study enhances the existing understanding of the complex dynamics of domestic violence within the unique context of the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated various stressors and challenges within households, potentially intensifying the risk of violence. Understanding the interplay between these ...

  23. Criminal Justice Policy and Victim-Survivor Empowerment: A Case Study

    Empowering victim-survivors has long been recognised as one key strategy in reducing domestic abuse. This article explores whether Domestic Violence Disclosure Schemes as a criminal justice response to preventing domestic abuse in the United Kingdom are experienced as empowering in practice. Centralising victim-survivor voices, this article argues that variability in experiences of feeling ...

  24. As Technology Evolves, so Does Domestic Violence: Modern-Day Tech Abuse

    Importantly, technology-based domestic abuse is very likely an additional form of abuse perpetrated in the relationship (Harris, 2018; Lyndon, Bonds-Raacke, ... (Case Study 5) Domestic violence against pregnant women is a serious worldwide problem. In the US, 20% of pregnant women experience domestic violence (Parsons, Goodwin, ...