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Prof Catherine Donovan

Head of Department, Professor of Sociology

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Head of Department, Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology  


Catherine joined the Department of Sociology in September 2018 as Professor of Sociology after spending 23 years at the University of Sunderland. Catherine gained her BA Social Studies at the University of Newcastle, her Masters in Women’s Studies at York University and her PhD at Edinburgh University. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. At Durham she is co-convening the Postgraduate option module Gender, Violence and Abuse (SOCI4060) and convenor for the Undergraduate option module Sociology Community Placement (SOC13511).

Catherine’s current research interests are the use of violent and abusive behaviours by lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men and/or trans people in their intimate relationships; the implications of love for making sense of and addressing domestic violence and abuse; hate crime/incidents and hate relationships and student safety. She is also currently developing a research project to explore elder abuse of LGB and/or T people.

Catherine welcomes enquiries about supervision from students who want to write an undergraduate, masters or doctoral dissertation on any of these topics as well as, more broadly topics exploring gender and sexuality.

Selected Grants

Co-Investigator, (2017-2018) Be the Difference, Pilot Active Bystander Project and evaluation, Funder: HEFCE Catalyst Fund and the University of Sunderland (£82,000).

Principal Investigator (2017-2018) Evaluation of Breaking the Cycle, Blackburn Changing Lives, Funder: Changing Lives (£15,000)

Principal Investigator (2006-2017) Three International Seminar Series showcasing research and best practice from around the world, Funder: NRF and University of Sunderland (£51,000)

UoS three month Graduate Internship in Partnership with Advocacy Centre North (2016) evaluating Partners in Health Advocacy Service (£15,000 pro rata)

Co-Investigator (2014-16) ‘Evaluation of the Selfies Project: Informal Sex and Relationships Education for LGBT Young People’, Funder: Projects Galore (£8,000)

Co-Investigator (2015-2016) Two public engagement events in the ESRC Social Science Festival on LGBT sex and relationships education Funder: ESRC (£2,000)

Principal Investigator (2014-15) Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland, Funder: RCTN (£10,000) undertaking a service evaluation of the Northumberland and Tyneside services.

Principal Investigator (2014) ‘Speaking Out: Trans Experiences of Violence and Abuse’ Funder: CASS (£8,000)

Principal Investigator (2014-1015) The Ace Project: Developing an Agenda for Change for Young LGBT People At Risk Of Sexual Exploitation, Funder: NRF (£7,000)

Principal Investigator (2014-2016) The Emerald Project: Exploring Student Safety, Funder CASS and FES (£7,500)

Co-Investigator (2014-2016) ‘Disability and Hate Crime in the North-east of England’ Funder CASS and FES (£8,600)

Principal Investigator (2014) ‘Evaluation of Sunderland City Council New Customer Services Network’ Funder: Sunderland City Council (£5,000)

Principal Investigator (2012-2014) ‘Exploring the Abusive Behaviours of Partners in LGBT Relationships’ Funder: ESRC (£270,000)

Principal Investigator (2014) ‘Evaluation of North East Domestic Abuse Project’ Funder: NRF (£5,000)

Principal Investigator, (2011-13) Impact of the Cuts, two year longitudinal study of the impact of the Coalition Government’s comprehensive spending review on the School’s partner agencies across the North East, Funder: CASS (£8,000)

Principal Investigator (2009-10) Exploration of reasons why so few LGB and or T victim/survivors of domestic violence and abuse are referred to multi-agency risk assessment conferences, Funder: Gateshead Domestic Abuse Partnership and University of Sunderland (£3,000)

Co-Investigator (In collaboration with a colleague in Community and Youth Work) an audit of services for LGBT citizens of Sunderland Funder: City of Sunderland Council (£2000). Output: Report written February 2008

Principal Investigator (2005-2010) ‘Evaluation of NRF Domestic Abuse Intervention Programme’ Funder: NRF (£500,000)

Principal Investigator (2004-2006) ‘Comparing Love and Violence in Heterosexual and Same Sex Relationships’ Funder: ESRC (£195,000)

Research groups

  • Violence and Abuse


Authored book

  • Donovan, C & Barnes, R (2020). Queering Narratives of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Catherine Donovan & Marianne Hester (2014). Domestic violence and sexuality what's love got to do with it?. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Jeremy Kearney & Catherine Donovan (2011). Rights, Risks and Responsibilities. TBA: Pending Details.
  • Catherine Donovan, J Weeks & Brian Heaphy (2001). Same sex intimacies. Routledge. Taylor \& Francis.

Chapter in book

  • Donovan, C (2020). Why legal equality is not enough: The case of domestic violence and abuse in the relationships of LGBTQ+ people. In Same-Sex Relationships, Law and Social Change. Hamilton, F & Noto La Dieg, G Routledge. 253-271.
  • Donovan, C, Chantler, K, Fenton, R & Bracewell, K (2020). Feminist Activism Among Academic Staff in the Movement to Address Gender-Based Violence on Campus. In Collaborating for Change: Transforming Cultures to End Gender-Based Violence in Higher Education. Oxford University Press.
  • Donovan, C. & Durey, M. (2018). "Well that would be nice, but we can't do that in the current climate" Prioritising Services Under Austerity. In Austerity Policies Bad Ideas in Practice. Rushton P. & Donovan, C. Palgrave Mcmillan.
  • Peter Rushton & Catherine Donovan (2018). Introduction: Austerity Policies: Bad Ideas in Practice. In Austerity Policies: Bad Ideas in Practice. Peter Rushton & Catherine Donovan Palgrave Macmillan. 1-17.
  • Donovan, C & Barnes, R (2018). Being 'ideal' or falling short? The legitimacy of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender victims of domestic violence and hate crime. In M. Duggan (ed), Revisiting the “Ideal Victim” (pp.83-101). Policy Press. In Revisiting the Ideal Victim. Duggan, M Policy Press. 83-101.
  • Catherine Donovan (2017). Feminism and social work. In Social Work Theory and Practice. L Deacon & S Macdonald London: Sage.
  • Catherine Donovan (2017). An exploration of Spare Rib's treatment of violence between women in same sex relationships. In Re-Reading Spare Rib. A Smith London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Catherine Donovan (2015). Tackling inequality in the intimate sphere problematizing love and violence in same-sex relationships. In After Legal Equality. R Leckey Oxford: Routledge.
  • Catherine Donovan (2013). Redefining domestic violence and abuse unintended consequences of risk assessment. In Constructing Risky Identities in Policy and Practice. J Kearney & Catherine Donovan Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Catherine Donovan & Marianne Hester (2011). Exploring emotion work in domestically abusive relationships. In Intimate Partner Violence in LGBTQ Lives. Janice L Ristock Routledge. 81-101.
  • Catherine Donovan (2008). Feeling at home children of lesbian-headed families telling their family stories in primary school settings. In Invisible Boundaries. E Atkinson & R Palmer Stoke on Trent: Trentham.
  • Nigel Watson & Catherine Donovan (2005). Educating About Donor Insemination: Managing Risky Identities in Donor Insemination. In Risk, Education and Culture. Andrew Hope & Paul Oliver Ashgate. 226-242.
  • B Heaphy, Catherine Donovan & J Weeks (2004). A different affair? Monogamy and non-monogamy in same sex relationships. In State of Affairs. G Allen Erlbaum.
  • J Weeks, B Heaphy & Catherine Donovan (2004). Lesbian and gay families. In Blackwells Companion to the Family. Blackwells.
  • J Weeks, B Heaphy & Catherine Donovan (1999). Families of choice autonomy and mutuality in non-heterosexual relationships. In Changing Britain Families and Households in the Nineties. S McCrae Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • B Heaphy, J Weeks & Catherine Donovan (1999). Narratives of care, love and commitment AIDS/HIV and non-heterosexual family formations. In Families and Communities Responding to AIDS. P Aggleton, G Hart & P Davies London: UCL Press.
  • J Weeks, Catherine Donovan & B Heaphy (1999). Everyday experiments narratives of non-heterosexual relationships. In The New Family. E Silva & C Smart London: Sage.
  • J Weeks, B Heaphy & Catherine Donovan (1999). Partners by choice equality, power and commitment in non-heterosexual relationships. In The Sociology of the Family A Reader. G Allen Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • J Weeks, B Heaphy & Catherine Donovan (1999). Partnership rites commitment and ritual in non-heterosexual relationships. In Relating Intimacies Power and Resistance. J Seymour & P Bagguley London: MacMillan Press.
  • B Heaphy, Catherine Donovan & J Weeks (1999). Sex, money and the kitchen sink power in same-sex couple relationships. In Relating Intimacies Power and Resistance. J Seymour & P Bagguley London: MacMillan Press.
  • Catherine Donovan (1997). Lesbian families in Britain. In Lesbian Families in Europe. K Griffin London: Cassel.

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Print)

  • Nicola Roberts, Catherine Donovan, Kate Tudor & Matthew Durey (2018). Agency, Resistance and the Non "Ideal Victim": How women deal with everyday sexual violence?
  • Nicola Roberts & Catherine Donovan (2017). Agency, Resistance And The Non \textquoteleftIdeal Victim\textquoteright: How Women Deal With Everyday Sexual Violence.
  • Catherine Donovan & Nicola Roberts (2017). Developing and Promoting Safer Communities of Learners.
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts, Kate Tudor & Matthew Durey (2016). Emerald Project Interim Report.
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts & Matthew Durey (2014). Teaching Gendered Violence: The impact upon students\textquoteright thoughts (and attitudes).
  • Catherine Donovan, Stephen J Macdonald & John Clayton (2014). Reporting and Responding to Hate Crime in the North East of England.
  • R Barnes, Catherine Donovan & Catherine Nixon (2013). Researching perpetrators of abuse in same sex and/or trans realtionships: emergent methodological dilemas and reflections.
  • Catherine Donovan, John Clayton & Jacqueline Merchant (2012). Localism or Pulling the Plug on Public Services? Consequences of Austerity for the Third Sector in the North East.
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts & Angela Wilcock (2011). Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre Grace - Northumberland Sexual Violence Project: Evaluation and sustainability report.
  • Catherine Donovan, John Clayton, Jacqueline Merchant & Nicola Roberts (2011). An exploration of the impact of the Coalition Government's spending review on the North East and how the Department of Social Sciences might respond.


  • Roberts, N, Donovan, C & Durey, M (2019), Landscapes of Safety: The construction and navigation of the urban landscape by students based on their gendered and/or racialised subjectivities, Cass Seminar Series University of Sunderland.
  • Roberts, N, Donovan, C & Durey, M (2019), Challenging Boundaries: How students construct and navigate boundaries of safety based on their gendered and/or racialised subjectivities, First Annual FES Research Conference: Boundary Breaking. University of Sunderland.
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts, Kate Tudor & Matthew Durey (2018), Positioning Universities as a source of Help when Gender Based Violence, Harassment and/or Hate Are Experienced by Students.
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts, Kate Tudor & Matthew Durey (2017), Help-Seeking of Students.


  • Donovan, Catherine, Magić, Jasna & West, Sarah (2021). LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Needs Assessment for Central Bedfordshire Council. Department of Sociology.
  • Donovan, C., Clayton, J., Macdonald, S.J, Ungureanu, C. & Knight, M. (2021). Exploring ‘hate relationships’ through Connected Voice’s Hate Crime Advocacy Service.
  • Donovan, C, Wilcock, A, Cunnington-Shore, C & Easton, J (2020). The Training Needs of Magistrates in relation to Domestic Abuse. Unpublished Report. Department of Sociology, Durham University.
  • Donovan, C & Butterby, K (2020). An eight day working week: LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Sector Snapshot. Durham University.
  • Chantler, K, Donovan, C, Fenton, R & Bracewell, K (2019). Findings from a national study to investigate how British universities are challenging sexual violence and harassment on campus: Briefing Paper and Checklist. University of Central Lancashire. (unpublished report).
  • Catherine Donovan, Nicola Roberts, Kate Tudor & Matthew Durey (2017). Initial Findings from the Emerald Project: Exploring relationships between structural vulnerabilities and perceptions and experiences of violence and abuse amongst students.
  • Catherine Donovan, Matthew Durey, Kate Butterworth & Catriona Hugman (2015). Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland Tyneside Rape Crisis (covering Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside and South Tyneside) service evaluation.
  • Catherine Donovan, Matthew Durey, Kate Butterworth & Catriona Hugman (2015). Rape crisis Tyneside and Northumberland Grace (covering Northumberland) Rape Crisis service evaluation.
  • Catherine Donovan (2015). Centre for Applied Sciences Newsletter. Sunderland, University of Sunderland.
  • Catherine Donovan, Jane Tunmore & Matthew Durey (2014). Evaluation of the introduction of the Sunderland Customer Services Network to Children's Service.
  • Catherine Donovan & Matthew Durey (2014). Evaluation of the North East Domestic Abuse Project University of Sunderland.
  • Catherine Donovan, R Barnes & C Nixon (2014). The Coral Project exploring abusive behaviours in lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender relationships.
  • Catherine Donovan, S Griffiths, N Groves, H Johnson & J Douglass (2010). Making connections count an evaluation of early intervention models for change in domestic violence.
  • Catherine Donovan (2010). Barriers to Making Referrals of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) victim/survivors to the MARAC and Recommendations for Improvement: A Study of IDVAs, MARAC Coordinators and PPU Detective Inspectors Within the Northumbria Police Force Area. University of Sunderland.
  • Catherine Donovan & F Williams (2008). Scoping exercise assessing LGB service provision in Sunderland.
  • Catherine Donovan, Marianne Hester, J Holmes & M McCarry (2006). Comparing domestic abuse in same sex and heterosexual relationships.
  • Catherine Donovan, G Gangoli, Marianne Hester & N Westmarland (2004). Provision of services for, and the needs of, children and black minority ethnic women living with domestic violence in South Tyneside.
  • J Weeks, B Heaphy & Catherine Donovan (1997). Families of choice the structure and meanings of non-heterosexual relationships, research results.
  • J Weeks, Catherine Donovan & B Heaphy (1996). Social Science Research Papers Families of choice patterns of non-heterosexual relationships. A literature review.
  • Catherine Donovan, N Sugden, C Mearns & R McEwan (1995). Keep on keeping on a study at ways of enabling people with HIV and their partners to keep on having 'safer sex'.

Supervision students