Are Anti-Violence Professionals Ready to Embrace Technology?

Two women using a tablet computer.

Domestic Violence Service Providers’ Technology Readiness and Information Needs” (abstract). Christine E. Murray, Anthony S. Chow, Allison Marsh Pow, Becky Croxton, and Lauren Poteat. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, Vol. 24, No. 3 (April 2015).

What it’s about: Researcher Christine Murray and her colleagues wanted to learn how ready professionals working with survivors of domestic violence feel to use technology, such as the Internet and social media, in their work. They also wanted to learn about common information needs in the field. To find out, the researchers conducted a computer-based national survey of 471 people working at domestic violence service providers.

The researchers measured participants' innovativeness (being the first in one’s circle of friends to start using a certain technology), optimism about, discomfort with, and insecurity using technology. They also looked for differences in readiness depending on their professional role (advocate, social worker, etc.), age, education level, and geographic region (urban or rural).

Why read it: As technology becomes increasingly common in everyday life, it also becomes part of perpetrators’ patterns of exerting power and control over their partners. An abusive partner, for example, may continue to harass a survivor over social media once they are physically apart. Service providers need to incorporate technology considerations into safety planning, Murray et al. say. Moreover, the Internet and social media provide useful avenues for domestic violence service providers to meet their clients’ information needs. But how able and eager are professionals to use technology? This study seeks to answer that question.

Biggest takeaways from the research: The research team found that participants' technology readiness varied considerably depending on their age, education level, and geographic region.

Age: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 18- to 25-year-olds and 26- to 45-year-olds in the study reported the least amount of discomfort and insecurity with technology, while the 46- to 64-year-olds reported the most. The highest age bracket (65 and older) was the most distrustful of technology. However, participants in that age group were also most likely to report innovativeness, along with participants in the lowest age bracket.

Education Level: Participants with a bachelor’s degree scored higher for technology readiness than participants at all other educational levels, including those with a master's and/or doctoral degree.

Geographic Region: Those who worked in both urban and rural settings scored higher for technology readiness than those who worked in just one setting or the other.

Professionals also said they needed information about the following:

  • Research on violence and abuse, legislation, advocacy, the criminal justice system, public policy, and funding.
  • Community-focused information on prevention, outreach, education, housing, and transportation.
  • Direct client services such as safety planning and counseling.
  • Staff training, professional development, and agency administration.

The authors conclude that administrators of domestic violence programs should adopt new technologies and offer training to help employees feel more comfortable and competent using them. The emergence of new technology-based risks also makes it important for professionals to keep up with technology, they add, to help victims stay safe.

Additional references: Look for more articles about domestic violence and technology in NCFY’s research library.

Murray and her team also created Safety Strategies, a Web-based safety planning toolkit for service providers.

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Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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