Session type:

Case Study

Presented by:

Emma Howell


Lisa Johnson

Women's Aid

Session time:

15 Oct 14:15 15:15

Session duration:

60 minutes

About the session


** Trigger warning - we will be sharing insights from survivors of domestic violence, some of which may be challenging to hear. We don't intend to go into detail with individual stories but want to be mindful of the difficulties for many people around this topic.**

Domestic violence and abuse is a huge societal issue, with around 1.3 million women experiencing domestic violence and abuse in England and Wales last year. Women’s Aid are a national charity working to end domestic violence and abuse against women and children. Up until October 2019, Women’s Aid delivered the 24hr Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (working in partnership with Refuge) and responded to over 108,000 calls in 2018.

It is estimated that 10,000 calls from women reaching out for support went unanswered last year. These specialist services are facing crippling cuts and are struggling to cope with the huge demand for support that many women so desperately need. Women’s Aid recognised that the way women are accessing help and support is changing. Women are turning to digital services for support and advice, with contact by email and their online forum increasing. Text based chat services are strongly preferred by younger women and through Helpline data, it was evident that this was a group of survivors that were not being reached. Younger women find it particularly challenging to recognise behaviours as abusive and early education, intervention and validation is vital to reduce their risk of harm. After losing funding to continue to support women via the Helpline, it became even more important for Women’s Aid to rethink their offering to make sure women could still access this life saving help.

Women’s Aid wanted their new digital service to be flexible to adapting to these changing needs to ensure that they continue to provide support in a way that women feel safe and comfortable accessing. They took the bold step to begin working on developing a live chat service to meet these shifting needs and to reach more women.

We will share the challenges that we faced when designing a live chat service for women experiencing domestic violence including:

  •  How we designed a service for women who may be in a very emotionally and psychologically vulnerable state
  • How we designed a service for women whose lives could be at risk because they contact us - How we kept the service safe from perpetrators who may try and access information about the women being supported
  • How we planned the project to make sure the team felt supported when working on such an emotive and challenging topic
  • The challenges of recruiting participants who could potentially be at risk of harm by taking part in our research
  • How we created as realistic a test session as we could to make sure that we were building something valuable, while keeping our participants safe
  • How we helped the Women’s Aid team to get ready for launch by quantifying what they needed to support the service and the training needed to be given to support workers.

We will share our top tips for people building a live chat service on a tight budget. We’ll explain the considerations for UX, design and development. We discuss how Women's Aid got ready to make sure they could provide a meaningful and sustainable chat service. And we will share our learnings from the data collected from survivors using the service during the beta.

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About the speaker(s)