Mobile phone generic personal safety applications in domestic violence and abuse scenarios: Empowering or responsibilising victims? A practitioner lens

Top 5 Personal Safety Apps for Women all over the World

This is a co-authored blog by Associate Professor Di Turgoose and Dr Ruth E McKie on their work on technology, specifically generic personal safety applications, in domestic violence and abuse scenarios.  The focus of this blog is on the international reach of their work in the autumn of 2019 at the European Conference on Domestic Violence.

In September 2019 at the 3rd Bi-annual European Conference on Domestic Violence (ECDV) held in Oslo, Norway, Di delivered a paper on our work on generic personal safety applications and domestic abuse. The ECDV is viewed as the greatest platform for international impact on the conference circuit for domestic violence and abuse. Over 800 delegates from 80 countries were in attendance and our contribution at the event was paramount in sustaining and continuing to build and develop our work in this area.

Our presentation explored our research which was focused on a generic Personal Safety Application adapted for use for domestic violence and abuse victims and adopted by law enforcement in the East Midlands region of the United Kingdom. Our research consisted of a thematic analysis of data from a roundtable and four follow up focus groups that were undertaken with criminal justice and specialist sector practitioners alongside other interested parties (e.g. universities), and the generic personal safety application development team.

While our findings revealed some support for the use of this generic personal safety application by some, many others identified clear problems associated with its use in domestic violence and abuse situations. These included 1) an oversimplified knowledge of the mechanics of how domestic violence and abuse is operationalised 2) security, privacy and male centric design practices. And 3) failures to address intersectional dynamics of ownership and usability of personal safety applications.

A copy of the presentation is available at

We were subsequently invited to write up our findings for publication in a special edition Journal focusing on Technology and Gender Based Violence for 2021.

Dr Ruth E. McKie is a Senior Lecturer in the Community & Criminal Justice Division at DMU. Ruth’s PhD explored climate change denial & criminology.  She is subject expert in Environmental Crime & Harm, researching various crimes e.g. environmental crime & animal abuse. Contact Ruth on or via twitter @ruthmckie1

Di Turgoose is an Associate Professor and Teacher Fellow in the School of Applied Social Sciences at DMU.  She is a pracademic with 20 year’s work experience in the Criminal Justice System with perpetrators & victims of crime.  She is subject expert in domestic abuse for the MOJ. Contact Di at or via twitter @pracademiccrime

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