Abstract: The Evolving Digital Landscape of Teen Dating Violence Organizations (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Evolving Digital Landscape of Teen Dating Violence Organizations

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Heather Storer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Eva Nyerges, MSW, Student, University of Louisville, KY
Emily Edwards, MSW, Student, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

Adolescents from underrepresented backgrounds endure disproportionately high rates of teen dating violence (TDV). Although teens across demographic groups are reluctant to seek services from formal service providers, teens of color, gender-nonconforming, and LBGTQIA+ teens are more likely to find support from their peers due to prior experiences of stigma and discrimination from service providers. There is burgeoning evidence that digital technologies can increase adolescents' service utilization and help-seeking. The purpose of this study is to explore how TDV organizations are currently using digital technologies in their work with adolescents, including in their efforts to reach underrepresented adolescents. Further, we are interested in investigating service providers' perceptions of the opportunities and drawbacks of utilizing digital technologies.


Data were collected from in-depth interviews (n=25) with service providers from DV agencies nationally. A semi-structured interview guide was employed to elicit participant’s inductive perspectives regarding their agencies’ organizational practices related to technology usage and strategies to inclusiveness for diverse adolescents. Exploratory thematic content analysis was employed to identify primary themes across the interviews. Analysis involved multiple rounds of iterative coding and the clustering of similar thematic constructs.


Across the sample, several themes emerged regarding how TDV organizations are using technology in their work with adolescents. First, TDV organizations are utilizing an array of existing technologies, including using social media, digital intake processes, and video conferencing. However, few are using emerging technologies such as tele-advocacy, text crisis lines, and smart-phone apps. Participants predominantly perceived technology as critically important for reaching adolescents, for providing services remotely, and for creating public awareness of agency activities. Primary barriers for technology adoption include concerns over client confidentiality and safety, the ability of perpetrators to weaponize technology, and lack of organizational capacity to adopt emerging technologies. There was limited evidence that organizations nationally are using technology to increase service delivery to teens across demographic groups, especially underrepresented teens.

Conclusion and Implications

Despite the proliferation of emerging technologies across the social service sector, there is limited evidence that such innovations are being adopted in TDV organizations nationally. Therefore, a new digital divide is emerging between organizations that have digital capacities and those that do not. This research challenges existing notions that staff in DV agencies are resistant to technology. These findings provide evidence for the need to partner with DV organizations to develop and implement new technologies that do not exacerbate concerns over client safety. Furthermore, technology is a critical tool for reaching all adolescents. However, to not exacerbate inequities in dating abuse outcomes, technology innovations need to be part of more robust efforts across organizations to adopt anti-oppressive and inclusive organizational cultures.