Technology for Domestic Violence Survivors

Martin Emms demos the research

Can technology help victims of domestic violence to seek help discreetly?

People who suffer from domestic violence are often unsure of where to turn, and many are afraid of the consequences of looking for help. We are working with the Angelou Centre – a Newcastle-based support centre for black and ethnic minority women – to design and develop technologies that can provide this vital assistance.

The project – known as Electronic Footprints in the Sand – looks at technologies that may help to hide domestic violence victims’ internet searches and call/text logs on their phone from their abuser, and provide victims with ways to call for help when they feel threatened. These prototypes are being trialled to ensure they are effective and easy to use, even if the user has little understanding of technology.

There are several websites out there that provide support and advice for people who are experiencing domestic violence. But what if partners check their search history and discover what they’ve been doing?

It may look like a run-of-the-mill app, but our “cleaner app” plays a secret role in helping victims cover their tracks. The app can be used to erase records of texts, calls, and searches involving domestic violence support groups, and can remove records of site visits relating to certain keywords. The aim is to hide evidence that the person has sought help, without suspiciously erasing the entire search history.

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Martin Emms

Budi Arief

Emms M, Arief B, van Moorsel A. Electronic Footprints in the Sand: Technologies for Assisting Domestic Violence SurvivorsIn: Annual Privacy Forum 2012. 2012, Limassol, Cyprus.

van Moorsel A, Emms M, Rendall G, Arief B. Digital Strategy for the Social Inclusion of Survivors of Domestic Violence. Newcastle upon Tyne: School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2011. School of Computing Science Technical Report Series 1277.