Supporting survivors of intimate partner abuse in identifying the abuse, building confidence and accessing support.
Hunt Statement
‘‘To research the barriers that partner-inflicted domestic abuse survivors encounter in identifying the abuse, accessing help and leaving their abuser, with a view to defining an opportunity for a new solution that tackles some of these pain points.’’
This was the major project for my UX masters degree. The focus was selected by myself and it was a solo project. The work was completed over two semesters; one to conduct research and the second to ideate, develop and test the solution.
Secondary Research
Extensive reading was done around abuse types and existing interventions in order to challenge my own assumptions and identify opportunities for new solutions. 
The Honeymoon Cycle explains how survivors can become trapped in abusive relationships. Survivors are always waiting for the relationship to go back to ‘normal’, suppressing the bad memories when things are going well.
‘‘A woman will try to leave a violent partner an average of seven times before eventually managing to flee’’ (Oppenheim, 2020). 
The Transtheoretical Model visualises the stages involved in purposeful behaviour change and is relevant to  those in abusive relationships. 
Competitor Analysis was conducted on 4 large UK abuse charities and their offerings were mapped onto this model. 
Most of the services provided operate around the contemplation/preparation and maintenance stages, though this does not mean that the existing solutions solve all the users’ pain points at these stages.
This highlights an opportunity for a service aimed at survivors in the pre-contemplation phase. 
Primary Research
Interviews were conducted with experts in the field, ranging from abuse charity founders to clinical psychologists. A survey was circulated to gain the perspectives of the UK public on domestic abuse and survivors' voices were heard through analysis of the Women's Aid Survivor Forum, as ethical constraints did not allow me to interview them directly. 
Data was analysed using affinity diagramming, content and thematic analysis techniques. Insights were generated by asking 'what it means' and 'why it matters' for each key finding, then those most relevant to the hunt statement were taken forward. 
Lack of Awareness
Many survivors do not even know that they are in an abusive relationship, blaming themselves for their partner’s behaviour. This is especially true of coercive and controlling relationships.​​​​​​​
Pop Culture Representation
Pop culture references to DA can be beneficial in raising awareness, but if storylines are too overblown survivors will disengage, thinking their own experience is not so bad.
Expectation to Leave
It cannot be assumed that survivors have cut contact with their abuser, or that they have left/want to leave the relationship, but the assumption is that survivors need to leave to end abuse. Leaving is actually the most dangerous time for survivors.
Four personas were developed and iterated based on The Transtheoretical Model, with each representing a different stage. Persona variable maps were used, focusing on behavioural variables to differentiate between survivor types. Survivors, whose forum posts were thematically analysed previously, were plotted on the scales to identify common behavioural traits. 
The four basic archetypes were The Denier, The Thinker, The Realiser and The Returner.  Through competitor analysis I found that the majority of existing support services require survivors to be fully aware of what they are experiencing and ready to take action, meaning The Denier and The Thinker archetypes are under-served. Survivors that only want information, or are unsure that they are being abused at all, can be put off by existing 'crisis' solutions. 
Amira and Caleb met at university and moved in together after graduating. Both are now in their late 20’s. Caleb was recently made redundant so Amira’s office job is their only source of income. This perceived power imbalance has made Caleb feel insecure and he becomes increasingly paranoid that Amira is being unfaithful. 
He starts to check her text messages and search history regularly, and is often verbally aggressive. Amira tells a friend about the outbursts and they express their concerns but Amira defends Caleb, saying he’s just stressed at the moment. 
There is an opportunity for a service serving survivors unaware that they are in abusive relationships who want to feel assured that their decisions are well-informed, but are:
- unable to use personal devices to do research (due to controlling partner),
- subject to manipulation that skews their view on their relationship, 
- and isolated from the loved ones they would ordinarily turn to for help.
How Might We questions were written around the opportunity statement and ranked on a matrix. The statement most relevant to the chosen persona's pain points was chosen to guide ideation activities.
HMW use behaviour change methods to make survivors realise that they are experiencing abuse and empower them to seek support by showing them relevant information?​​​​​​​
Multiple individual and group ideation activities were done, using both Crazy 8's and Brainwriting techniques. Emerging concepts were then ranked on a 'How, Now, Wow' matrix.
Key 'Wow' Ideas:
Avatar empowering survivors through storytelling - Making experiences less personal and therefore easier to talk about. However gamification may feel patronising.
Doctor as key intervention point - Trusted person in a safe space that has a good rapport with their patients. 
One-on-one walking meeting with support worker - Less daunting and 'serious' than a support group or formal meeting. 
Informational touchpoint in public toilet - Avoids use of personal devices, which can be easily controlled by an abusive partner. 
Ideas from the group ideation sessions were reviewed and combined into two concepts.

Support Network Concept - visualising support networks to reduce isolation and screens in public spaces to negate cyber abuse.
Doctor Concept - Using the doctor as a key intervention point, screens in public spaces with using short quizzes to raise awareness of abuse. It also makes use of the informal walking meeting idea, coined Safe Strolls.

Storyboards of both concepts were developed and presented to experts for evaluation, then edited into one coherent journey comprising the most useful elements.
Safe Spaces is an initiative started by UKSAYSNOMORE during COVID lockdown. It offers access to pharmacy consultation rooms for those experiencing abuse at home to have some time alone, seek support on their phones etc. 
‘‘There have been at least 3,700 visits to a Safe Space since its launch'' - UKSAYSNOMORE, 2020.
Guerrilla research was conducted in two pharmacies to better understand the experience of accessing these spaces. In each I followed the instructions on the website; simply go to the pharmacy desk and ask a pharmacist to use the safe space.
In both instances the pharmacists asked had no knowledge of Safe Spaces, so I was unable to access the room. This is concerning and a significant barrier to survivors accessing help.
Designing a service around Safe Spaces could increase awareness of the initiative and maximise use - currently the only support/guidance within the room comes from posters and leaflets.
Basic Concept
This idea builds on existing Safe Spaces, adding an informational tablet for survivors to use anonymously within the room. This negates cyber abuse as survivors do not need to use their personal devices, which can be monitored by their abuser. 
The tablet then signposts to support services, including Safe Strolls, an informal one-on-one walking meeting with a support worker.
Due to ethical constraints, prototyping could not be done with the intended end user. Instead, storyboards were presented to, and edited with, experts in the field. They were also discussed and body stormed with course mates. Key critiques were noted and a pre-mortem was done on the basic concept. 
Key Issues Identified:
- Healthy adults do not visit the doctors often, so signposting to Safe Spaces from here  may be ineffective.
- Asking the pharmacist to access the Safe Space can be daunting and off-putting for survivors.
- Survivors may fear judgement if seen entering/exiting the Safe Space, especially by their abuser.
How Might We statements were written based on the pain points identified and solutions were brainstormed. 
Chosen Solutions:
- Advertise the service through targeted social media adverts rather than at a doctor's surgery. 
- Walk-in policy for Safe Spaces, to avoid having to ask pharmacists for access.
- 'Decoy' lip gloss to give survivors an excuse for going to the pharmacy, if they need it.
A key feature of the informational tablet app is the chatbot, which guides the users through relevant information, survivor stories and support services. A persona was developed for the chatbot to inform the tone and personality of the app and copywriting.
App Prototyping
A decision tree was created based on the chatbot's interactions with the user, and used to guide the development of low-fidelity wireframes. 
Testing participants were asked to complete tasks using the screens. The option to use the app anonymously was appreciated by participants. 
They also liked the modelling; ‘73% of other users also found ...’’, and the reassuring, supportive experience the chatbot created. 
However onboarding took too long, which may be off-putting for users in a rush. 
This feedback was used to inform the development of the mid-fidelity screen iteration. Modelling was used more extensively and onboarding screens were reduced so information could be accessed faster. 
Service Prototyping
Lego was used as a bodystorming tool to act out the parts of the service that are not app-based, with the intention of identifying any potential causes of failure missed in the pre-mortem.
The issue of seeing someone you know while accessing the Safe Space were resolved by the addition of pharmacy bags for survivors to take if needed: anyone they see will assume they were simply picking up a prescription. 
Developed Concept: Safehands
SafeHands is a service that supports survivors of intimate terrorism in identifying the abuse, building confidence and accessing support in a multi-stage approach. It makes use of digital and physical touchpoints to provide an educational, uplifting and inclusive experience to users. 
1: Targeted social media adverts raise awareness of the service. Awareness-raising is important because many people in abusive relationships do not realise they are being abused. This is especially common if the abuse is non-physical.
2: The survivor accesses the Safe Space at their local pharmacy and starts interacting with the informational tablet. Many survivors have their digital devices controlled by their abuser so it is important that their app activity is untraceable, hence the anonymously-used tablet.

The chatbot gently asks questions to build up a picture of the survivor's situation. This information is used to show them relatable information and survivor stories to help them come to terms with the abuse they are experiencing.
3: The survivor builds confidence and progresses to talking to a support worker via the app.
4: The survivor is signposted to SafeStrolls, a discreet branch of SafeHands that allows them to meet with a support worker one-on-one to safety plan, get support and build confidence in talking about their experiences, before progressing to existing offerings, such as group sessions and therapy.

Figma Prototype:

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