A qualitative exploration of intimate partner violence : The front-line practitioner's perspective

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Portsmouth

Principal Researcher

Sophie Phillips

Level of Research


Project Start Date

May 2021

Research Context

Intimate partner violence/abuse (IPV/A) is a detrimental social and public health issue with severe consequences (Black et al., 2011). With the global Covid-19 pandemic, the overarching message worldwide has been "stay safe, stay at home"; although this message overlooked those who would be unsafe, whilst staying at home: victims of IPV/A (Bradbury-Jones & Isham, 2020. Bradbury-Jones and Isham (2020) also noted that the UK’s main domestic abuse organisation ‘Refuge’ reported a 25% increase in calls received on their hotline and a 150% increase in website traffic. Given the deleterious impact of IPV/A on the wellbeing of individuals, families and society, there is a real need to understand how the efficacy of treatment and interventions being used is affected. During the Covid-19 outbreak, many services have been affected by individuals being told to work from home wherever possible to limit the spread of the virus. This has meant that many intervention programmes being used with perpetrators of IPV/A have either been suspended or transitioned into an online intervention (Emezue, 2020). A key purpose of the current research is to discuss with front-line practitioners about their experiences of using online interventions throughout the pandemic.

Literature emerging before the Covid-19 pandemic began suggesting the promise of digital, or technology-based interventions, although these were being designed to complement in-person delivered modalities, rather than replace them (Emezue & Bloom, 2021). At user-level digital interventions are believed to prioritise confidentiality, user safety and privacy, with the advantage of offering reliable and real-time support to those who need it (Glass et al., 2017). Given difficulties in seeing/hearing and genuinely connecting with each-other online, digital interventions may bear significant implications for intervention engagement, uptake and overall treatment effects. Current research into the implications of digital interventions for the most part are looking at survivors’ mental well-being as a sign of programme efficacy (Emezue & Bloom, 2021). The present research, however, will offer insight into the views of front-line practitioners currently delivering digital interventions for IPV/A.

The research will enable us to understand, from the perspective of the practitioners delivering the services, the implications of remote IPV/A interventions. The research will aim to understand from the perspective of these practitioners if they believe digital interventions are effective, how they feel these interventions compared to human-delivered modalities and if there is anything they personally feel is better or worse about delivering interventions exclusively online. Additionally, this research aims to identify any difference in opinion surrounding the causes and drivers of IPV/A between practitioners, depending on the training they have undertaken. The research is therefore guided by the following two research questions:

  • What do front-line practitioners think about digital interventions? 
  • Does the training front-line practitioners receive change their perceptions regarding the causes of IPV?

Research Methodology

Interviews will be conducted with practitioners working with IPV/A clients. Participants will include a sample of 16-20 practitioners from front-line services including the police, mental health services, substance misuse services and children and family services. It is believed that the training received by the practitioners may impact their beliefs surrounding the causes and drivers of IPV/A. Approximately one half of participants will be front-line practitioners with no specific IPV/A training, but will be in job roles where it is highly likely they will encounter these issues, such as substance misuse workers, health visitors or social workers.

One-on-one interviews will be conducted with front-line services practitioners; these interviews will be expected to last at least 30 minutes. The interviews will provide qualitative data for analysis. The interviews will be semi-structured as described below. In the context of exploring practitioners’ views towards digital interventions and reasons for IPV/A, thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) is useful, because it enables the examination of the meanings practitioners attach to their views, the significance they feel they have and more broadly the social constructs attached. In addition to this, it enables the further exploration of how these constructions might reflect the ‘reality’ of their lived experiences as practitioners. Therefore, the epistemology falls on the constructivist continuum. Thematic analysis will be used to identify patterns and themes throughout the interviews, enabling a holistic view of the data due to the inductive nature of thematic analysis.

Date due for completion

September 2021
Return to Research Map