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Current Projects


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)

Barriers and Facilitators to Implementing the Universities UK (2016) Recommendations on Sexual Violence on Campus

CRiVA member: Professor Catherine Donovan 

With colleagues at UCLAN and Exeter, we have conducted a national survey and follow up interviews with a range of academic and professional support staff at Higher Education Institutions in England, Wales and Scotland. 

Read the Sexual violence on campus report and Sexual violence self assessment checklist.


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 is currently evaluating a HMPPS funded programme of work designed to support women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse at HMP Low Newton women’s Prison. Rape and Sexual Assault Counselling Centre', Darlington and County Durham (RSACC) are currently delivering a programme of work (October 2018- June 2021) that is supporting 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 is using a mixed methods approach that combines quantitative, interview and participatory research methods. The evaluation will examine the extent to which the programme supports women to recover and heal; lead to improved mental health and wellbeing; and help support rehabilitation. It is also evaluating 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 climate crisis as masculine violence? Engaging men in caring for the planet

CRiVA member: Dr Stephen Burrell

Funded by: Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship

This project is focusing on men, masculinities and the climate crisis. It is exploring the connections between men's violences and environmental harm, together with how to work with men and boys to build more caring relationships with the natural world.


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 Covid-19 and Men and Masculinities research.



CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini 

Time Out” is a common strategy that is taught within domestic violence perpetrator programmes, as a last resort to prevent the occurrence of violence between current or previously intimate partners. It involves taking oneself (the perpetrator) out of their immediate environment, for an agreed period time, to reflect and manage their own behaviour, before returning. Despite its pervasiveness and outlined concerns that ‘Time Out’ is being implemented incorrectly, or in the worst cases misappropriated as another tool of abuse, little research has been performed in what tools could aid in assisting men to perform this activity correctly. This research project aims to understand what technical requirements are essential to be built into supportive tools to enhance responsibility for abusive behaviour, while contributing to a safer environment for victim-survivors. While in its nascent stages, this work plans to conduct a series of scoping interviews and design workshops with service providers, service users and software developers to encourage deeper conversation in the design of preventative tools. We are keen for the final design of the tool to be implemented, and trialled through heuristic, user testing alongside existing domestic violence perpetrator programmes, to assist providers in ensuring course content is learned and implemented effectively. 


Digital Duluth 

CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini 

Since the early 1980s, a small community in northern Minnesota (US) has led the way in innovating ways to prioritise victim-survivors safety, and hold men that use violence in relationships accountable for their actions. Despite evolving and changing over the last three decades, crossing continents and being translated into over fifteen languages, the role of technology within the delivery of domestic abuse intervention programs. While digital tools have become a necessity for societal and interpersonal communication, these have to be designed and implemented carefully to ensure the content and mode of delivery of such programs are not lost. Through a partnership with Partnerships with Family Peace and Menswork Program in Family Violence, we sought to explore what role video conferencing technologies might play in emerging programs by taking part in the evaluation of their 40-week batterers intervention program. This research aims to explore what are the perceptions of using video conferencing software in the delivery of sensitive content, how does the use of video conferencing impact group dynamics, and identify the constraints and benefits of using digitally-facilitated communication to inform future perpetrator courses. Through the use of a mixed methods approach, including semi-structured interviews, digital ethnographies and quantitative survey data, we aim to capture a complete picture of how the introduction of this tool can illuminate some of the unknowns within this space. 


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 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.


Image-Based Sexual Abuse in the UK, Australia and New Zealand

Funded by: Australian Research Council

CRiVA members: Professor Clare McGlynn and Dr Kelly Johnson 

The project, led by Dr Nicola Henry (RMIT, Australia), aims to be the first international, empirical and comparative study to establish the prevalence, nature and impact of image-based sexual abuse in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and examine the diverse legal responses to this harm. Little is known about how widespread these behaviours are, or the extent of resulting social, economic and psychological harms. The study aims to generate new knowledge, a theoretical framework and a much-needed evidence base to develop law reform and strategic interventions. 

Read the report.


Learning Advisor 

Funded by: Comic Relief 

CRiVA member: Dr Hannah Bows 

This 18 month project involves providing project management support and overseeing/evaluating the collective learning from a grant programme supporting frontline projects providing services to older women who have experienced violence and 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

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.


Mapping the learning from domestic homicides in Newcastle 

CRiVA members: Dr Hannah Bows 

Funded by: Newcastle City Council 

This project is evaluating the domestic homicide reviews undertaken since 2013 to identify common learning outcomes, action plans and the extent to which these have led to change. 


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. 


'Now and Men: Current Conversations About Men's Lives' Podcast

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

Funded by: Durham University

CRiVA researchers have created a monthly podcast series to explore issues of men, masculinities and gender equality in the 21st century, and the myriad ways in which feminism is relevant to the lives of men and boys. You can listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or at


Police Responses to Domestic Abuse Ethnographic Study 

Project partners: The College of Policing 

CRiVA members: Professor Nicole Westmarland and Dr Kelly Johnson 

Through the use of ethnography, this study will examine police officers’ understanding of and attitudes towards domestic abuse, as they ‘play out’ in everyday practice across the police organisation. The study will also examine policies and processes, the interactions between officers’ attitudes and understanding and the processes they work with, and wider organisational factors such as performance frameworks and resourcing, in the context of policing domestic abuse. Researchers from Durham University and the College of Policing are conducting this study with one police force in the North of England and one force in the South, and will work collaboratively to produce academic outputs. This proposed research aims to address a significant lacuna in contemporary, contextual knowledge about the policing of domestic abuse in the UK. 


Profiling Older Sex Offenders 

CRiVA member: Dr Hannah Bows 

This ongoing project with Greater Manchester Police is examining the backgrounds and offending histories of sex offenders aged 60 and over. 


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.


Sexual Violence at UK Music Festivals 

CRiVA members: Dr Hannah Bows and Professor Nicole Westmarland 

Funded by: British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant 

This 18 month project is exploring the extent, nature and responses to sexual violence at UK music festivals.


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 and 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 

Funded by: 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.