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Completed Projects

Below is a list of some of the now-completed research projects which CRiVA members have undertaken in recent years.


Home Office - Domestic Abuse Perpetrators Research: Family Abuse Perpetration

CRiVA members: Prof Geetanjali Gangoli, Prof Catherine Donovan, with Dr Kate Butterby, Dr Alishya Dhir and Dr Sue Regan

Co-Investigator: Prof Aisha K. Gill (University of Bristol, Centre for Gender and Violence Research)

There is little known about those who perpetrate family abuse, i.e. those who use physical, emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse against a family member who is over the age of 16 years. Typically, family abuse is inaccurately assumed to be only associated with racially minoritised communities who might use ‘honour’-based abuse to coerce family members into conforming to norms of gender and sexuality and family norms of obedience to parents and elders and/or to punish them for non-conformity and/or disobedience. In this project we wanted to explore family abuse perpetrators in racially minoritised communities and to extend the exploration to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary and how they are victimised through family abuse across all communities. We interviewed practitioners, particularly in ‘by and for’ domestic abuse organisations and faith leaders about their experiences of working with perpetrators of family abuse; investigated existing data sets on family abuse; and collected case studies of family abuse. We developed a tool kit for practitioners thinking about working with perpetrators of family abuse which provides important factors to consider in making sense of how and why perpetrators might rationalise their behaviours as well as considering the barriers to those victimised by family abuse coming forward to mainstream and ‘by and for’ domestic abuse providers and what can be done to address those barriers. We provide a way of thinking through how societal, community and individual factors cumulatively provide a rationale and support for family abuse and, conversely, how these factors require societal, community and individual level responses to address and challenge them.

Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse Against Older Adults: Characteristics, Risk Factors and Professional Responses

CRiVA member: Dr Hannah Bows

In collaboration with Bridget Penhale, Paige Bromley, Merili Pullerits, Natalie Quinn-Walker and Asmita Sood, this Home Office project report presents the findings from a rapid four-month study examining perpetrators of domestic abuse against older adults. The research aimed to understand who the perpetrators of domestic abuse against older adults are, what the long-term causes of domestic abuse against older adults are and how statutory and non-statutory services identify, risk assess and response to cases of domestic abuse involving older adults. We used a mixed-method approach across three work phases to address these questions: A rapid evidence review using a systematic methodology to assess the current state of knowledge in relation to perpetrators of domestic abuse against older adults; an analysis of 69, s42 (Care Act 2014) enquiry case files held by a large safeguarding partnership; and qualitative, structured interviews with 66 professionals across a number of sectors who held responsibility for safeguarding and/or responding to domestic abuse (DA), either working with victims, perpetrators, or both. 

We found that perpetrators of DA against older adults tend to be adult children or partners, a slightly higher proportion of perpetrators are male, and there are gendered differences in the nature of abuse perpetrated. Mental health and alcohol or substance abuse among perpetrators is common and many have a history of violence against other people. Domestic abuse is often missed by services, existing tools to identify and risk assess are not well suited for abuse against older adults and/or abuse perpetrated by non-partners (such as adult children), and there are few opportunities to work with adult children or older perpetrators of domestic abuse. 

Project Report: Perpetrators of domestic abuse against older adults: characteristics, risk factors and professional responses.

Access to Justice? – Evaluation of the experiences of people with learning disabilities who report rape or sexual assault

CRiVA members: Dr Alison Jobe and Dr Helen Williams

Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland and members of CRiVA have worked alongside Northumbria Police to carry out research into the experiences of the Criminal Justice System by people who have a learning disability and who have experienced sexual violence. The research investigated how people with learning disabilities might be better supported through the Criminal Justice System when reporting sexual assault and/or rape. The research is an exploratory local study in the Northumbria police force area and involved case analysis of police data; alongside interviews with service users and key stakeholders.

Find out more and read the full report

An Eight Day Working Week: LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Sector Snapshot

CRiVA members: Professor Catherine Donovan and Dr Kate Butterby 

This report is of a snapshot study of the diaries of practitioners working in the LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Sector in February 2020. Findings show that they regularly work outside their contracted remit and do more hours than they are contracted for. In addition, the sector is precarious both financially and because of the continuous credibility work they have to engage in to (re)establish the worth of their expertise and contribution to the field. Finally, the report shows the emotional impacts such working conditions and the wider austerity environment has on practitioners. 

Research report: An eight day working week: LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Sector Snapshot (pdf)
Infographic: 'An eight day working week' Infographic (pdf)

Findings from a National Study to Investigate How British Universities are Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment on Campus

CRiVA member: Professor Catherine Donovan

Co-investigators: Dr Kelly Bracewell, Professor Khatidja Chantler and Dr Rachel Fenton 

The Universities UK Taskforce published its report on tackling violence against women, hate crime and harassment in UK universities in 2016, which identified key recommendations for change. Subsequently, HEFCE invited universities to apply for Catalyst funding to move this agenda forward. Many universities in England and Wales received HEFCE funding to tackle the violence against women (VAW) workstream, particularly in relation to sexual violence and harassment (henceforth SV), however, securing funding through this route was not a precondition for participation in this study. In Autumn 2018, 134 university staff responded to our survey to explore, with both closed and open questions, how university processes are being navigated by university staff and the current state of play at universities to promote the UUK (2016) agenda, focusing on SV in universities. The survey also recruited volunteers for in-depth interviews (n=25). Our study investigates the barriers preventing, and the facilitators promoting, the implementation of the UUK (2016) recommendations with respect to SV, as well as providing insight into where universities are situated as regards engagement with the SV agenda. Please read our Briefing Paper and Toolkit on how to address the barriers to implementing the recommendations of the 2016 UUK Report.

Read the full report: Full Report: Findings from a national study to investigate how British Universities are challenging sexual violence and harassment on campus

Read the Briefing Paper: Briefing Paper: Findings from a national study to investigate how British universities are challenging sexual violence and harassment on campus

See the toolkit: Sexual Violence Self-Assessment Checklist for Universities

The Believed Project: Evaluation of a specialist programme of support for women at HMP Low Newton who have experienced sexual violence  

CRiVA member: Dr Kate O’Brien 

Kate O’Brien evaluated a HMPPS funded programme of work designed to support women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse at HMP Low Newton women’s Prison. The Rape and Sexual Assault Counselling Centre, Darlington and County Durham (RSACC) delivered a programme of work (October 2018- June 2021) that supported women who have experienced sexual violence in HMP Low Newton through specialist counselling, group work and staff training. Working with Hannah King and members of HMP Low Newton Think Tank, Kate used a mixed methods approach combining quantitative, interview and participatory research methods. The evaluation examined the extent to which the programme supported women to recover and heal; improved mental health and wellbeing; and helped support rehabilitation. It also evaluated the impact of the programme on staff and prisoners with a mentor role (such as PID workers, Listeners and Think Tank members) to respond, support and signpost women who have experienced sexual violence appropriately. 

The Coral Project 

CRiVA member: Professor Catherine Donovan 

We have analysed quantitative and qualitative data from the Coral Project on abusive behaviours of LGB and/or T people for a book with Palgrave, which has now been published: 'Queering Narratives of Domestic Violence and Abuse - Victims and/or Perpetrators?'

Covid-19 and Men and Masculinities 

CRiVA members: Dr Stephen Burrell and Sandy Ruxton 

Dr Stephen Burrell and Sandy Ruxton have been carrying out research to explore the impacts that Covid-19 has been having on men and masculinities, and on work with men and boys. This has included writing a report for the international NGO Promundo about emerging evidence in this area, and conducting a survey about the experiences of organisations which are part of MenEngage Europe, who engage with men and boys about gender equality issues.  

Read more about our research.

Domestic Abuse Awareness Project (DAAP) Evaluation

CRiVA members: Dr Hannah King, Professor Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini 

Durham County Council (DCC) commission a range of services to tackle domestic abuse, including a long-term Respect accredited perpetrator programme. However, only a small number of perpetrators engage with or complete the course each year. DCC have recently received Home Office funding to pilot a new short domestic abuse awareness course for the high volumes of perpetrators who are assessed as standard risk. The DAAP aims to work with a higher volume of perpetrators to stop serial perpetration of domestic abuse and to prevent the impact of abuse on children and young people. It is expected that more perpetrators will then progress to the Respect accredited programme. The project will link with other existing multi-agency domestic abuse provision. 

Dr Hannah King and Professor Nicole Westmarland are undertaking a process and impact evaluation of the DAAP. We are working with the DAAP Board, Barnardo’s (DAAP delivery organisation), Harbour (Victim and Children’s Safety Project), police and partner agencies to undertake this research. We are also working with Rosie Bellini (PhD researcher) to explore digital opportunities for developing the accountability intervention. The research explores the experiences of victims, perpetrators and partner agencies of the project. 

DCC Checkpoint

CRiVA members: Dr Hannah King and Professor Nicole Westmarland 

Related to the DAAP evaluation, Dr Hannah King and Professor Nicole Westmarland are also undertaking a small-scale qualitative evaluation of Durham Constabulary’s Checkpoint pilot service for domestic abuse. Checkpoint is a four-month programme ran by Durham Constabulary aimed at addressing root causes of offending behaviour to prevent future offending. It is an alternative to custody (subject to successful completion) used for certain offences. Over the past year, Checkpoint has been piloted with people who have committed offences relating to domestic abuse. Where appropriate, offenders participating in Checkpoint are referred to Harbour’s domestic abuse services and Barnardo’s domestic abuse awareness course. The CRiVA research is evaluating the use of Checkpoint for domestic abuse, specifically intimate partner violence cases, from the perspective of victim-survivors. Working with partner agencies, it also explores how Checkpoint fits into a partnership response to domestic abuse. The research feeds into the continuing development of Checkpoint as an initiative and ensures that the voices of victim-survivors are heard. 

Engaging with Men and Boys About Masculine Gender Norms

CRiVA members: Dr Stephen Burrell, Sandy Ruxton, Professor Nicole Westmarland

Funded by: Government Equalities Office

What impacts are masculine gender norms having in the UK today? How can we engage men and boys in shifting harmful gendered social norms in healthy directions? This piece of research for the Government Equalities Office, which involved interviews and a survey with experts and practitioners, led to the publishing of a report and engagement toolkit in 2019/20. You can access these at

Engaging with the business sector to prevent violence against women and build gender equality

Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Durham University Covid-19 Response Fund

CRiVA member: Dr Stephen Burrell

Dr Stephen Burrell undertook an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2019-2020, where he carried out key-informant interviews to explore opportunities to engage men in the prevention of violence against women in the business sector. He has created a briefing paper for businesses and workplaces on this topic. Subsequently he has also carried out a survey with local social enterprise Changing Relations, to examine how businesses in the North East of England are addressing gender equality issues, and how these have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis - you can read the findings from this research here.

Exploring 'Hate Relationships' Through Connected Voice's Hate Crime Advocacy Service

CRiVA members: Professor Catherine Donovan

This study explored whether and how the concept of 'hate relationships' might enable further understanding about clients reporting repeat hate incidents perpetrated by neighbours, and how this understanding might improve practice. The idea of ‘hate relationships’ looks to capture the familiar, repetitive, enduring and often ‘low level’ character of some forms of hate between clients and known perpetrators, akin to coercive control experienced in domestic violence and abuse. Drawing on Hate Crime Advocacy Service case notes from Connected Voice Advocacy in North East England, the research explored the extent, character and impacts of ‘hate relationships’

Research report: Exploring 'hate relationships' through Connected Voice's Hate Crime Advocacy Service (pdf)

Generating Impact from Research into Violence and Abuse at Durham 

Funded by: Durham University ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) 

CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland and Stephen Burrell 

We made use of this funding to help boost the generation of social impact from several different CRiVA research projects: Project Mirabal, which was was the largest UK study of domestic violence perpetrator programmes to date; the Policing Domestic Abuse Knowledge Transfer Project, which focused on investigating and improving frontline police responses to victims of domestic abuse, building awareness and understanding of domestic abuse in the workplace and improving employer responses to it; and the nature and extent of ‘out of court’ resolutions (restorative justice and community resolutions) used by the police in cases of domestic abuse.

LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Needs Assessment for Central Bedfordshire Council

CRiVA member: Prof Catherine Donovan

This report aims to improve understanding of: the experiences of domestic abuse in the LGBT+ population of Central Bedfordshire; whether Central Bedfordshire domestic abuse services meet the needs of local LGBT+ people; and what changes are needed to empower LGBT+ survivors and encourage help seeking. The findings highlight that experiences of domestic abuse are high amongst LGBT+ people living in Central Bedfordshire, with particular sub-groups such as trans people, non-binary people, bisexual and pansexual people experiencing the highest levels. Despite this, LGBT+ victims/survivors do not feel able to approach specialist services for support and help-seeking is mainly confined to informal sources of help and more privatised sources of professional help such as counselling/therapy. Findings describe a cycle of invisibility for LGBT+ survivors in the area, with a small number of professionals going above and beyond to try to improve the help available, but many feeling unapproachable to LGBT+ people. Barriers to accessing support include not relating to the public story of domestic abuse, not knowing where to go for support and not feeling that the services available would be accessible or appropriate for their needs. The report also highlighted that professionals across a wide range of services do not ask about or record gender identity or sexual orientation meaning they do not know who in their service identifies in this way. Consequently, services cannot respond to any particular risks or needs that LGBT+ people may be facing which adds to the invisibility they experience.

Central Bedfordshire LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Needs Assessment

Male victims of domestic abuse during Covid-19

CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland, Dr Stephen Burrell, Alishya Dhir, Dr Kirsten Hall, Ecem Hasan, Dr Kelly Henderson

A team of CRiVA researchers carried out a study with Respect in 2020 to investigate the experiences of male victim-survivors of domestic violence and abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. This involved anonymously observing 344 calls and e-mails to the Men's Advice Line. The findings from the research have been shared in a preliminary report, and we plan to publish more in-depth analysis from the study in the near future. 

Networks of Accountability (NoA) 

CRiVA member: Dr Rosanna Bellini 

In the United Kingdom, there is currently a wide variety of behaviour change programmes that aim to teach perpetrators of domestic violence of respectful, non-violent behaviours. These may vary in length, from 12 to 26 weeks and intensity (depending on the perpetrator’s assessed level of risk), but consistently use a combination of the Duluth model, psycho-educational approaches and cognitive behavioural therapies. Public service reform has as of yet relied very heavily on the use of bureaucratic and market-based tools that are ill equipped to deal with a growing range of complex societal problems including domestic violence. This research project aims to explore the implications for designing, implementing and trialling a digital peer support network for perpetrators of domestic violence that aspires to extent responsibility beyond the completion of such courses. As the effective achievement of a desistance in abusive behaviour requires a balanced, self-determined lifestyle, this work will explore how social bonds may be utilised to positively enforce this lifestyle, and thereby discourage further violence at the courses’ conclusion. By acknowledging the lived experience of perpetrators who have completed such courses, it may be possible to encourage supervised support, guidance and liability within these individuals towards men whom have commenced behaviour change. 

Project Mirabal 

Project Mirabal was a major CRiVA research project which lasted from 2009 to 2015. Professors Liz Kelly (London Metropolitan University), Nicole Westmarland (Durham University), and Charlotte Watts (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) investigated the extent to which perpetrator programmes reduce violence and increase safety for women and children, and the routes by which they contribute to coordinated community responses to domestic violence. You can find out more about the research at

SELFIE Project Evaluation 

CRiVA members: Dr Alison Jobe and Dr Hannah King 

Dr Alison Jobe and Dr Hannah King jointly conducted an external evaluation of a sex and relationships education programme (and educational resource), which was piloted in secondary schools and colleges in Darlington from 2015 to 2020. SELFIE (Sexualisation, Exploitation, Love, Friendships, Information and Empowerment) – was a Big Lottery funded sex and relationships education programme developed and managed by RSACC (The Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre, Darlington and Co. Durham). The evaluation by CRIVA members - Hannah King and Alison Jobe - focused on exploring the experiences of, and impact of the project on young people, and young people's views and understanding of sex and relationships. The evaluation also considered the role and contribution of the project within the school system. This element involves exploring the views of partner agencies, including the Local Authority and individual schools themselves.

Training needs of magistrates on domestic violence and coercive control 

CRiVA member: Professor Catherine Donovan 

This is a national survey of the Magistrates’ Association conducted in September 2018, which involved working with a local chair of magistrates, Magistrates Association and a Research Assistant at the University of Sunderland (where funding was secured). 

Find out more and download the report


Why do some men take a public stance against men's violence against women, and how can more be encouraged to do so? 

CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland, Sandy Ruxton and Dr Stephen Burrell 

Funded by: British Academy Small Research Grant 

Many academics, policy makers, and NGOs have argued that more men must engage with the movement against violence towards women, in order to create social change that can prevent violence and abuse from being enacted in the first place. This transnational research project sought to speak to men who already actively and publicly take a stance against men’s violence against women, to explore the individual and structural factors that enable and support men to do so. It featured two core research questions: 1. What are the personal backgrounds and life experiences that are associated with some men moving to positions where they actively and publicly challenge men’s violence in society? 2. What are the socio-political, personal, political and economic factors that are conducive to enabling and supporting more men to do so? To answer these questions, we used an electronic survey with 40 participants, and semi-structured interviews with 18 men, all of whom had actively taken a public stance against violence towards women in the UK, Sweden, or Spain. A research advisory group ran alongside the project, made up of representatives from NGOs and academics from the three countries being studied. By exploring the dynamics by which some men come to challenge men’s violence and building on their knowledge and experience, we wish to provide insights into how more men can be drawn into this struggle. We have co-authored a book to share the findings from the research which will be published on 30th July 2021, including as an open access e-book.

Women on Porn

CRiVA member: Dr Fiona Vera-Gray 

Funding: Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship

The limited studies that exist on women’s experiences of porn to be contradictory, conflicted, and ambivalent, qualities that struggle for expression within legal or psychological frames. There are a range of unanswered, and mostly unasked, questions about if and how women use pornography as well as what pornographies they use, how their views of pornography have developed over time, and where pornography sits in relation to their experience of sexual freedom and agency. There is also a significant gap in our understanding of the actual content of mainstream online pornography meaning public debate, and policy development are taking place without a clear baseline of what kinds of pornography are most often advertised to a first-time user of the most popular online porn sites. 

The Women on Porn project seeks to establish such a baseline for mainstream online pornographic content, as well as to provide the long-needed evidence to centre women’s lived experience within the porn debates. The project has three parts: (1) A content analysis of the 3 most accessed UK porn sites (2) A survey with over 1,600 responses on women’s use of and relationship to mainstream online pornography (3) In-depth interviews with 100 women on their experiences of pornography over the life course. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, it is the largest study solely on UK women’s experiences of mainstream online pornography, and has collected the greatest data sample internationally of online pornographic content.