Purpose: Given that IPV survivors depend on technology, that technology can be used to facilitate abuse, and the inconclusive research of the impact of technology on help-seeking processes, this study sought to answer the question “What do survivors themselves see as the role of technology in their process of seeking help for domestic violence?”
Methods: Individual, semi-structured interviews lasting approximately 40-90 minutes were conducted with 12 survivors living at a residential domestic violence shelter in a Southwestern state. Researchers worked closely with onsite staff, advocates, and the volunteer coordinator to establish a presence at the shelter. Survivors were guided through several questions related to their experience and use of technology as it related to their online help-seeking. Interviewees were given a consent form and indicated verbal consent by participating in the interview. For their time and participation, they were compensated $20. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using an open-coding thematic analysis. All program participants received access to a new mobile phone through a partnership with TMobile.
Findings: Though most participants were able to cite instances of technology being used against them in a negative way (stalking, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence), many participants also provided examples of how they positively utilized technology for their own well being. Positive benefits included building online support networks, utilizing digital traces to ground in reality, and technology-based resistance. Survivors indicated that their use of technology to incorporate self-employed safety strategies provided them with personal fulfillment. Multiple participants pointed to the significance of online social interaction with external family, friends, and service providers, with some even noting these contacts catalyzed their ultimate decision to leave their abuser.