Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a major social issue which accounted for 15% of all violent victimizations from 2002 to 2012 in the United States (Truman and Morgan, 2014). IPV has been ever-present in societies; being one of the most common forms of violence committed against women (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi and Lozano, 2012). IPV includes physical and sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression by a current or former intimate partner (CDC, 2015). Examples of these behaviours are hitting or kicking, intimidation and humiliation, forcing sexual acts, monitoring their partner's movements, and isolating their partners from their friends and family (Krug et al., 2002). The name and attitudes towards intimate partner violence have changed throughout the years.
IPV has not always been a criminal offence and historically was accepted and often regarded with humour (Jacquet, 2015). Pre eighteen hundred, IPV would have been termed ‘wife battering’ and the attitude was that it is a perfectly valid way for a husband to show his authority over his wife (Clark, 2011). However, in the late nineteenth century, many western societies started changing their attitudes and began to bring in laws and legislations against ‘wife battering’. The term wife battering was then abandoned and replaced with domestic violence, and IPV when looking at violence committed by an intimate partner only. Before the 1970’s IPV was perceived as a private issue and was largely unaddressed by the Criminal Justice System (CJS) (Schechter, 1982). Since the 1970’s the CJS has made significant progress in recognising intimate partner violence as a crime. Despite laws and legislation being introduced, IPV is still a major social issue. IPV is still a complex and challenging issue for police. This is especially apparent when looking at the policing of non-physical violence, as it is more difficult to establish and prove that it has occurred due to the lack of physical injury. This is particularly problematic as both men and women are more likely to experience non-physical than physical IPV (ONS, 2019; Woodlock, 2014).
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010) found that, in the United States, more than a third of women and more than a quarter of men have been victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (2019) found that 4.2% of adults aged 16-74 experienced some form of violence committed by an intimate partner in the year 2018-2019. This includes non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault, and stalking. They also found that 17.6% of people over the age of 16 have experienced intimate partner violence. Emery (2010) found strong evidence to suggest that IPV is underreported. In general, crimes can go unreported due to many different reasons, such as seeing the crime as ‘trivial’ or not identifying the event as a crime, the individual not wanting to be seen as a victim as this suggests weakness or having a negative attitude of the police/CJS (McCleary-Sills et al., 2015). In addition to this Kennedy & Prock (2018) conducted a review which examined the effect of stigmatization of IPV on victim disclosure and helps to seek. They found that shame, self-blame, and anticipated stigma were all barriers stopping victims of IPV from seeking help. In addition to this, fear of further violence, the perception that the abuse must be physical with proof, economic dependence on the perpetrator and fear of Child Protective Services involvement were all barriers to IPV victims seeking police help (Wolf, Ly, Hobart & Kernic, 2003; Vranda, Kumar, Jamardhana & Sivakumar, 2018; Rose et al., 2011; Fugate, Landis, Riordan, Naureckas & Engel, 2005).
IPV and domestic violence are terms that are often used interchangeably, however, IPV is a type of domestic violence where the victim is or has been in a romantic relationship with the abuser (CDC, 2015). Intimate partner violence is multi-faceted, including physical and non-physical types of abuse. Both men and women are more likely to experience non-physical abuse as opposed to physical abuse (ONS, 2019; Woodlock, 2014). IPV is a global issue, which affects people of all genders, cultures, and sexualities (Coker et al 2002; Archer, 2006; Vandello & Cohen, 2004; Renzetti & Miley, 1996). However, there are certain risk factors for IPV victimization such as gender and age. Studies into dating abuse suggest that technology is now becoming a common tool to perpetrate IPV (Woodlock, 2013; Zweig, Dank, Yahner & Lachman, 2013; Draucker & Martsolf, 2010; Burke, Wallen, Vail-Smith and Knox, 2011).
Technology is rapidly advancing in Western cultures and is becoming more accessible to the general population. The number of daily internet users in the UK has grown from 16.2% in 2006 to 45.1% in 2019 (Statista, 2020). In 2018, the UK was the third highest internet user in the European Union with 95% of adults aged between 16- and 74- years old spending time online (ONS, 2019). Adolescents and young adults have access to and are heavily reliant on technology and use a wide range of social media which has now become a large part of their everyday life (Anderson & Jiang, 2018). When individuals reach the age of adolescence, around 16-18 years old, romantic relationships become more intimate and a central part of their lives (Connolly and McIsaac, 2011; Furman and Shaffer, 2003; Sorensen, 2007). Technology has already changed the way that people meet potential partners and the dating process as a whole. There is a wide range of different online dating websites and dating now usually includes texting, or messaging on social media such as Facebook or Instagram (Baker and Carreño, 2016). One-third of people in the United States have used online dating sites or apps, this increases to almost half when looking specifically at 18- to 29-year-olds (Vogels, 2020). This rapid expansion of technology poses a real threat to victims of intimate partner violence.
Whilst this technology can be a positive thing in so many different ways it also creates new tools and opportunities for intimate partner violence to occur. There are many different ways in which technology can abuse such as monitoring a partner’s social media accounts, using apps to track their partner's location, excessive unwanted messaging, and distribution of sexual images without consent (King-Ries, 2011). Stalking is a common aspect of intimate partner violence, with x percentage of intimate partner violence victims being stalked during or after the relationship.
This research paper focuses on non-physical IPV, including stalking and coercive and controlling behaviours.
Impacts of IPV
As well as the immediate impact of intimate partner violence, there are also long-lasting impacts. Victims of intimate partner violence have been shown to have negative mental and physical health consequences (CDC,2012; Fleming et al., 2012; Devries et al., 2013). Coker et al., (2002) found that being a victim of physical intimate partner violence was associated with poor health, depressive symptoms and substance abuse for both men and women. Victims were also associated with a higher risk of developing chronic mental and physical illnesses. However, this study used an anonymous self-reported survey which means that reported mental and physical health issues may be miss-classified. This also means that the correct timeline for the age of first IPV victimization and age of diagnoses of mental or physical health issues may be misclassified. This means that the study cannot say with certainty that IPV victimization preceded the health outcome.
Pico-Alfonso et al., (2006) found that women who experienced physical or psychological partner violence had a higher incidence rate and severity of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in comparison to women who had not been victims. Intimate partner violence is such a major social issue, as the effects are not just the immediate injury caused, it can have lifetime consequences for the victims. This research into the negative consequences of IPV is important as it reinforces why research is needed to examine the different methods used by perpetrators to abuse their victims and how these can be identified and policed. Previous studies have only examined the effect of physical IPV on mental health. However, this study examined the impacts of psychological IPV and found that psychological IPV alone hurts women’s mental health. This is an important finding as not all IPV contains physical abuse and it is not always seen as serious if physical IPV is not present. However, this study only looked into the impacts on women’s health, therefore, is only applicable to this population. The impact of IPV may differ when considering male victims.
Stalking and Coercive Control
Tjaden & Thoenennes’ (1998) research shows that the majority of stalking cases are perpetrated by someone the victim knows with half of stalking cases perpetrated by current or former intimate partners. More recent research by Peterson, Liu, Merrick, Basile & Simon (2019) supports this theory, estimating that around 85% of stalking cases in the US were perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner. Tjaden & Thoenennes (1998) also found that stalking by an intimate partner usually continues for a longer period than stalking by a stranger. Intimate partner stalking perpetrators are also more likely than stranger stalking perpetrators to follow through with physical threats (Palarea, Zona, Lane & Langhinrichsen-Rohling,1999) assault their victims (James, & Farnham, 2003) and re-offend after court intervention (Davis, Ace & Andra, 2000).
Coercive control is defined as patterns of controlling behaviours by an intimate partner that limits an individual’s independence, self-image, and decision-making authority over the victim (Hamberger, Larsen & Lehrner, 2017). In England and Wales, an inspection into the police response to IPV showed that officers struggle to recognise patterns of abusive behaviour when physical violence is not present (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2014). Studies into coercive control suggest that it is much more frequent than physical violence and can be more harmful. A study by Glass, Mangello, and Campbell (2004) found that along with recent separation and the presence of a weapon, the amount of control in a relationship was a better predictor of homicide than the severity or frequency of physical violence.
Research by Myhill & Hohl (2016) found that behaviours indicative of coercive control were consistently present in cases of IPV attended by the police. Coercive control was associated with other IPV risk factors much more than physical violence. Their findings suggest that focusing on coercive control, rather than violence in risk assessment may be important in identifying IPV before the violence.
Age and Intimate Partner Violence
The social issue of IPV does not just exist in adulthood, it is also common in younger adults. There has been an extensive amount of research into dating abuse in adolescence. Young women, between the ages of 16 to 24 have the highest rate of experiencing IPV (Rennison, 2001). In a college dating violence and abuse poll conducted by knowledge networks, 57% of college students said that it is difficult to identify dating abuse. They also found that among those who experienced dating abuse, 70% failed to recognise that they were in an abusive relationship at the time (Knowledge Networks, 2011).
A study by Simon et al., (2001) found that the acceptance of hitting in intimate partner relationships was less likely among those who were over 35 years old. This suggests that older adults may be less accepting of IPV behaviours. However, it only focuses on the physical aspects of IPV and does not inform us of whether this result will be found in other aspects of IPV such as psychological abuse. A more recent study by Maquibar, Vives-Cases, Hurtig & Goicolea (2017) examined professionals' perceptions regarding IPV among young people. Participants in the study described relationships between young people as different from adult relationships as they are shorter and have less defined boundaries. Participants described IPV among young adults as ‘normalized’.
This study highlights how previous victimization can influence current attitudes toward intimate partner violence. However, this study focused on physical IPV, so it does not tell us if the previous victimization will affect non-physical aspects of IPV such as psychological abuse.
Gender and Intimate Partner Violence
IPV is often viewed as gendered (Kubicek, McNeeley & Collins, 2015). Female-to-male violence is much less researched than male-female violence despite research suggesting this type of violence occurs much more frequently than commonly believed (Strauss & Ramirez, 2007; Black et al, 2011).
Russell, Chapleau & Kraus (2015) conducted research into the role of gender in intimate partner violence. The study presented a case summary of an assault on participants. Several genders and sexual orientation factors were manipulated in the study. The participants were asked to rate to what extent the behaviours could be considered abuse. They found that female participants were more likely to believe the assault constituted abuse compared to male participants. They also found the gender of the perpetrator did not affect whether the incident was seen as more or less abusive. However, other research into the role of gender in IPV has found that IPV perpetrated by males is considered more serious (Seelau & Seelau, 2005) and that males are perceived as more violent than women (Stith, Smith, Penn, Ward & Tritt, 2004).
Intimate Partner Violence and technology
As previously stated, technology is exponentially advancing with 95% of adults in the UK spending time online (ONS,2019). These advances in technology have many benefits, such as keeping in touch with loved ones, easy and quick access to knowledge and information, and its entertainment value, however, they can also be misused. Some misuses of technology include cyber-harassment, cyber-stalking, online sexual harassment, or abuse (Winkelman, Early, Walker, Chu, & Yick-Flanagan, 2015).
Previous researchers have compiled behaviours that amount to cyber-harassment and stalking as:
Monitoring their victim’s emails
Sending threatening or insulting emails
Sending spam emails e.g. virus emails
Using the internet to research personal information to use against their victims
Constantly instant messaging, texting, or calling
Post inappropriate messages online e.g. on forums, social media pages, chatrooms, and/or on blog sites (Winkelman et al, 2015).
Woodlock (2013) SmartSafe study examined the issue of technology-facilitated stalking in IPV. The study consisted of focus groups with IPV professionals and two online surveys: one using IPV support practitioners and one using IPV victims. The research found that 98% of support practitioners reported cases where perpetrators' abuse had been facilitated through technology. This was the first study in Australia to examine technology-facilitated abuse. The research showed how perpetrators use technology to abuse their victims during and after the relationship from a distance. The findings also show us how perpetrators create a sense of omnipresence in their victims’ everyday lives.
It is important to research non-physical aspects of IPV such as stalking and coercive control as they can have long-lasting effects on their victims. Furthermore, 76% of women who were murdered by an intimate partner were stalked before their murders (McFarlane, 1999). In recent years, research into IPV has rapidly increased. As well as this, research into cyberstalking and harassment has exponentially increased (e.g. Ellison, 2003; Pittaro, 2007; Finn, 2004). However, there is a distinct lack of research into an individual’s ability to identify technology-facilitated intimate partner violence (Borrajo, Gámez-Guadix, Pereda & Calvete, 2015). A thorough review of psychology and criminology databases, such as PubMed, ScienceDirect, PsycARTICLES, and Web of Science, was conducted and limited research was found concerning TF-IPV.
Zweig et al (2015) conducted a questionnaire using adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years of age and found that the most common types of cyber abuse were the use of the victim's social network without permission, sending messages to perform unintentionally sexual behaviour or sexual photos and sending threatening messages. These findings show that the use of technology-facilitated violence is present in people of young ages, however, does not examine if these behaviours are present in their intimate relationships.
Draucker & Martsolf (2010) reviewed interview transcripts of 56 young adults looking retrospectively at dating violence in their adolescence. They found that technology including texting, calling, social networking sites, and instant messaging was frequently used by many participants' partners to verbally abuse them. Furthermore, these technologies facilitated the escalation of arguments and were used by their partners as a method of monitoring the victim’s behaviour. They also found that technology was used for seeking help when in a violent episode with an intimate partner. However, when the victim tried to call the police, friends, or family for help it usually resulted in a fight over the phone. The participants in this study were 18- to 21-year-olds looking retrospectively at their experiences of cyber abuse with an intimate partner in their adolescence. If teens were interviewed now the role of technology in their relationships would likely be much greater. This is due to a wider range of technology and social platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and many more. The study also highlights that technology is not always misused in relationships and identifies that technology is also used to seek help when individuals find themselves in violent disputes with their partners.
Burke et al., (2011) researched the extent to which university students use technology to commit acts of IPV. They found that half of both male and female participants reported the use of technology to monitor their intimate partner, being either the perpetrator or the victim. Their results show that women are most likely to be the perpetrators of monitoring their partner's emails, Facebook, and call history. However, women were also more likely to report experiencing their partner monitoring their emails, Facebook, and call history. This research supports the idea that technology is increasingly becoming a method for individuals to commit IPV. The self-report methods used in this study may lead to biases in the participant's responses. In the questionnaire, they fail to specify what constitutes ‘excessive’. This leaves the interpretation of the word ‘excessive’ up to the participants, which is a very subjective term. Furthermore, using a self-report questionnaire may mean that the participants were less likely to admit to perpetrating acts of controlling behaviour.
Schnurr, Mahatmya & Basche (2013) explored cyber abuse in IPV. They used an adapted version of Draucker & Martsolf's (2010) questionnaire on couples. Their results showed that women are more likely to be the perpetrators of physical and non-physical intimate partner violence. As this was a self-report questionnaire, biases may be present which may affect whether they admit to perpetrating acts of IPV. This study highlights the fact that IPV is not a gendered social issue, indicating women can be the perpetrators of IPV to the same extent or more than males.
The attitudes and perceptions held by the general public, police, and IPV workers towards IPV all play an important in how IPV is identified, reported, and dealt with in the criminal justice system. For example, research shows that individuals are more likely to perceive behaviours as stalking if the perpetrator is a stranger as opposed to a partner or former partner (Scott, Rajakaruna, Sheridan & Sleath, 2013; Scott, Rajakaruna & Sheridan, 2013; Cass, 2011; Scott & Sheridan, 2011). Individuals are also more likely to consider the victim to be experiencing alarm and fear of violence if the perpetrator is a stranger rather than a current or former partner (Scott, Rajakaruna, Sheridan & Sleath, 2013; Scott, Lloyd & Gavin, 2010; Scott & Sheridan, 2011; Sheridan, Gillett, Davies, Blaauw & Patel, 2003). However, this is contradictory to research, which shows that stalking is most commonly perpetrated by a person the victim knows and this type of stalking tends to last longer and has more dangerous outcomes (Tjaden & Thoenennes, 1998; Napo, 2011; Peterson et al., 2019).
The UK government define defines controlling behaviour as “acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.” (The Serious Crime Act, 2015). Robinson, Myhill and Wire (2018) examined attitudes and understanding of coercive control held by IPV professionals, Coercive control is an aspect of IPV that became a criminal offence in the UK in 2015. Their results show a range of understanding of coercive control. However, they found it is not uncommon for practitioners to fail to recognize patterns of coercive control. This study could be expanded on by examining the IPV professionals’ clients to see if they show more or less of an understanding of coercive control and are more able to recognise patterns of abuse.
Freed et al., (2017) examined digital technologies in the context of intimate partner violence. They conducted semi-structured interviews with IPV professionals, including police, case workers, support workers and attorneys/paralegals, and focus groups with IPV victims. They found that both IPV professionals and victims felt they had inadequate knowledge to identify and cope with technology-facilitated IPV. This study highlights the need for further research to be conducted into the use of technology in IPV to educate professionals and victims to equip them with the knowledge necessary to identify and deal with the associated behaviours. Although this study makes positive steps in investigating IPV professional's victims’ attitudes toward technology-facilitated abuse, it does not asseithertare the ability to identify such behaviours. The study design was focus groups and interviews, where victims and professionals felt comfortable talking about their perspectives. This is useful in examining their true beliefs; however, the lack of an experimental design means that participants were not tasked with recognising such behaviours. Therefore, although they felt they were inadequately equipped to identify these behaviours, it does not necessarily mean this is reflective of reality.
Harway & Hansen (1993) and Hansen, Harway & Cervantes (1991) researched therapists’ abilities to correctly identify patterns of IPV behaviour. They used vignettes depicting the IPV of a real couple who were in therapy. The therapists were asked to conceptualize the case. The therapists were then informed that shortly after the therapy session, the male partner raped and killed the female partner. The results of this study found that 40% of the therapists entirely failed to identify the conflict in the relationship before being informed of the murder.
Dudley, McCloskey & Kustron (2008) replicated this study over a decade later. They found that only 13% of respondents failed to identify the conflict in the relationship. This shows an improvement in therapists’ abilities in detecting and identifying IPV behaviours. However, although this study showed a great improvement in the identification of IPV, they did not publish the vignette or questionnaire used in the study. Thus, the types of IPV behaviours in the vignette are unknown. Furthermore, both studies only looked at therapists’ abilities to identify IPV, therefore the results of the study are not generalisable to the wider population.
Robinson, Pinchevsky and Guthrie (2015) conducted a study using hypothetical vignettes consisting of patterns of physical and non-physical IPV behaviours. In the vignettes, they include behaviours such as “repeatedly showing up at her work, which had caused her to be fired from her job” and “constant, unsolicited Facebook and text messages, phone calls”. In the physical violence vignette, they used the same non-physical behaviours, however, they added extra sentences depicting physical abuse. These vignettes were shown to police officers in the UK and the US. Their findings showed that police officers in both the UK and the US had a good level of understanding of IPV. However, they also showed that police officers expect physical abuse to be present in IPV and when it is absent, police tend to have a less proactive response in dealing with it. This study shows that non-physical abuse is commonly overlooked by police officers as it is not consistent with their prior beliefs as to what constitutes IPV. Although the vignette used in the study does mention the use of social media to constantly message the victim, the study did not separately assess whether this was considered to be abusive. Instead, in the non-violent condition, this behaviour was included with in-person abuse and harassment, such as showing up to the victims’ place of work. In the violent condition, three sentences about physical abuse were included. Thus, it is not possible to distinguish whether the police officers considered the technological-facilitated IPV as abuse if perpetrated alone.
Whilst this study is important as it assesses the attitudes of those who work in the criminal justice system to different aspects of abuse, it is also crucial to consider the perspectives of others. Individuals who suffer from abuse are less likely to approach the police than informal sources, such as family member or friends (Ashley & Forshee, 2005; Moe, 2007). Informal sources can provide emotional support, practical support (such as a place to stay) and encouragement to leave the relationship (Renzetti, 1988; Trotter & Allen, 2009). However, research suggests that if informal sources react negatively to a disclosure, this can worsen the victims’ psychological well-being, lessens the likelihood of reporting to the police or leaving the relationship (Belknap, Melton, Denney, Fleury-Steiner & Sullivan, 2009; Goodkind et al., 2003; Mitchell & Hodson, 1983; Kennedy & Prock, 2018). Therefore, it is important to examine the public perspective of IPV and the role of technology-facilitated abuse, as anyone can become part of this critical support network.
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Aims and Hypotheses
Identifying and acknowledging IPV is the first step in ending it. As the literature shows, non-physical is the most common type of intimate partner violence experienced by both men and women. Police and IPV workers must be able to identify and acknowledge IPV behaviours, but it is equally important that the general public can identify these behaviours. This study aims to examine to what extent the general public can identify patterns of non-physical IPV behaviour when they occur both in person and through technology. This research also aims to see if the ability to identify patterns of IPV behaviours are associated with age, gender and the amount of time spent on technology and social media.
Previous research has demonstrated that IPV professionals and victims believed they had inadequate knowledge of identifying technology that facilitated IPV (Freed et al., 2017). Due to this, it is hypothesised that participants will be more likely to recognise IPV when it is committed in person than via technology. Subsequently, it is also hypothesised that in-person IPV will be rated as more severe. It is also hypothesised that harassment recognition will be higher when behaviours are committed in person rather than via technology and will subsequently be rated as less severe.
In a previous UK sample using a non-violent IPV vignette participants were more likely to consider the behaviours as harassment rather than abuse (Robinson, Pinchevsky & Guthrie, 2015). Therefore, it is hypothesised that the behaviours in both vignette conditions will be labelled more as harassment rather than IPV.
Research suggests that older people are less accepting of IPV behaviours and that young people have less defined boundaries in their intimate relationships (Simon et al., 2001; Maquibar et al.., 2017) It is hypothesised that age will impact how worrying behaviours, harassment and IPV severity are considered.
Previous research into IPV suggests that female participants are more likely than male participants to view IPV behaviours as abuse (Russell, Chapleau & Kraus, 2015). Therefore, it is hypothesised that female participants will rate worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity higher than male participants.
No previous research has looked into whether social media and technology usage will influence how IPV behaviours are considered. Therefore, this study aims to elucidate the impact of both social media and technology usage on how worrying people considered IPV behaviours, as well as harassment and IPV severity.
The participants in this study were 178 adults, 124 females and 50 males who completed an online survey. Of these 178, 36 were removed from the data due to an error in the survey which showed them both or neither of the vignettes and questions. Therefore, the number of participants in this study is 142, 103 females and 39 males. The only exclusion criteria in this study were age – over 18 years only. This was due to the sensitive social issue discussed in the survey. Participants were asked to select an age range category (see Table 1). Participants were recruited using opportunity sampling. This study was approved by the ethics committee at Royal Holloway, University of London (see Appendix).
Hours on social media per week
Hours using technology per week
Materials and Procedures
An online survey was conducted. As no studies have researched this specific aspect of IPV using vignettes, the researcher created an original survey instrument for this research. A short 4-item demographic questionnaire was used asking the participant's age, gender, number of hours spent on social media per week, and amount of hours spent using any kind of technology per week. They were also asked an additional 5 questions about their perception of the vignette. These questions are as follows:
Do you consider these to be worrying behaviours?
Would you consider this to be harassment?
If yes, how severe do you consider this case to be?
Would you consider this to be Intimate Partner Violence?
If yes, how severe do you consider this to be harassment?
Question 1, 3 and 5 are all rating questions, rated on a scale from 0 to 100. Question 2 and 4 were multiple-choice questions with the possible answers of ‘Yes, ‘No’ or ‘Unsure’.
Participants were shown one of two vignettes of behaviours that constitutes IPV according to UK legislation (CPS ?). In the first vignette, these behaviours are committed in person and the other vignette, they are committed via technology. After being shown one of the vignettes, participants completed a questionnaire to ascertain the participant's perceptions of the vignette behaviours. The vignettes in this study are hypothetical and were created for this study. The vignettes both contain IPV behaviours such as stalking, social isolation, invasion of privacy and financial abuse. The difference between the vignettes is in one vignette the IPV is perpetrated in person and the other the IPV is perpetrated using technology. Each behaviour in one vignette is matched to behaviour in the other vignette. For example, in the in-person vignette, one of the behaviours was ‘Chelsea has, on numerous occasions, told Sam that is not allowed to go out and see any of his female friends.’ This was matched in the technology vignette and contained the behaviour ‘Chelsea has also made Sam delete all of his female friends from his social media accounts. Each behaviour included in the vignettes was based on IPV behaviours from case study interviews conducted for the ‘Using Law and Leaving Domestic Violence Projects’ (Douglas, 2020).
The participants recruited to participate in this study were informed via the social media platform Facebook, and the instant messaging service, WhatsApp. The link was accessible from participants' electronic devices and could be completed at their convenience. The participants clicked a link to volunteer to take part in the study. The survey was conducted using Qualtrics, an online survey-making tool. Once the participants clocked the link, they were taken to the information and consent page. The information sheet informed the participants of the nature of the study, what the study consisted of, anonymity and that they were free to withdraw at any time without an explanation (see appendix). The participants were then required to select either ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree’. If ‘I disagree’ was selected, the questionnaire was automatically ended. If ‘I agree’ was selected and therefore informed consent was given, the participant continued the questionnaire. This was the only question in the questionnaire which required a response. The rest of the questionnaire did not require the participant to give a response to continue. The first four questions were demographic. These were then followed by one of two vignettes, in-person or technology. The vignettes shown to the participant were random. Participants were then asked a series of questions on their perception of the behaviours in the vignettes and whether they considered them to be worrying, harassment and IPV. If they did consider the behaviours to be harassment or IPV, they were asked to rate the severity. After the participants completed the questions on the questionnaire, they are taken to the debrief page which explains the aim and purpose of the study.
IPV recognition and severity
A series of chi-square tests of independence were conducted to analyse the relationships between vignettes shown to the participant and their perceptions of the vignette with alpha equal to .05 as a criterion for significance. The first chi-square tests analysed whether they considered the vignette to constitute IPV depending on what vignette they were shown. As shown in table 1, a significant effect was found between which vignette the participant was shown and whether they considered the behaviours to be IPV χ2 (2, 138) = 7.87, p= .02. The effect size for this finding, Cramer's V, was medium, .24. This demonstrates that depending on how IPV is perpetrated, in person or via technology, will have some influence whether they determine the behaviours to be IPV or not. Participants who read the technology-facilitated IPV vignette were more likely to be unsure if the behaviours constituted as IPV than participants who read the in-person IPV vignette. A Shapiro-Wilk test showed a significant departure from normality for IPV severity scores w(76) = .92, p=.00, therefore non-parametric analysis was conducted. A Mann-Whitney u test found no significant difference between IPV severity scores in the in-person condition (Mdn = 80) compared to the technology condition (Mdn = 75), U=655, p=.51, ns.
Harassment recognition and severity
A chi-square test was conducted to analyse the relationship between the vignette shown to the participant and whether they considered the behaviours to be harassment. As can be seen in table 1, no statistically significant effect was found χ 2 (2, 138) = 5.30, p= 0.7. A Shapiro-Wilk test showed a significant departure from normality for harassment severity scores w(127)=.85, p=.000. Therefore, a non-parametric analysis was conducted. A Mann-Whitney test found no significant difference in harassment severity scores in the in-person condition (Mdn = 82) compared to the technology condition (Mdn = 76), U=1887, p=.54, ns.
Age and worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity
A series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were conducted to examine the effect of age on worrying behaviour severity, harassment severity and IPV severity scores. Kruskal-Wallis tests were selected due to violation of assumptions for a one-way ANOVA. The data passed assumptions for the Kruskal-Wallis tests.
A Kruskal-Wallis H test showed that there was a statistically significant difference in IPV severity scores between age groups H(4)=9.630, p=.047, with a mean IPV severity score of 22.54 for 18 to 24-year-olds, 34.46 for 25 to 34-year-olds, 42.05 for 35 to 44-year-olds, 43.47 for 45 to 54-year-olds and 46.27 for over 55-year-olds. The results of the Bonferroni posthoc test show no significant difference between IPV severity and any of the age groups. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed that there was no statistically significant difference in worrying behaviours or harassment severity scores between age groups H(4)=5.460, p=.243, H(4)=8.990, p=.061.
The two vignette groups were then analysed separated, in-person and technology, to see if age affects IPV severity scores and harassment severity scores. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference in IPV severity scores between age groups for both the in-person vignette condition and the technology vignette condition, H(4)=3.309, p=.508, H(4)=4.452, p=3.48. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between age group and harassment severity, H(4)=8.590, p=.072, H(4)=2.568, p=.632.
Gender and worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity
A series of Mann-Whitney tests were conducted to examine the effect of participant gender on the perception of worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity. A Mann-Whitney test showed no statistically significant difference in worrying behaviours scores for males (Mdn=100.0) and females (Mdn=100.0), U=1662.0, p=.37, ns. A Mann-Whitney test showed no statistically significant difference in harassment severity for males (Mdn=80.0) and females (Mdn=80.5), U=1546.5, p=.73, ns. A Mann-Whitney test showed no statistically significant difference in IPV severity scores for males (Mdn=80.0) and females (Mdn=75.0), U=462.0, p=.39, ns.
Several Mann-Whitney tests were conducted to analyse the effect of participant gender on worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity, analysing the technology condition and in-person condition separately. As can be seen in Table 3, no statistically significant effects were found.
Summary of differences between males and females in both vignette conditions.
Technology Vignette Condition
In-person Vignette Condition
Social media usage
A series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were conducted to analyse the difference in worrying behaviours scores, harassment severity scores and IPV severity scores depending on hours spent on social media per week.
A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent on social media and worrying behaviours score, H(2)=.62, p=.73, with a mean rank of 71.4 for less than 10 hours, 67.2 for 10-20 hours and 63.8 for over 20 hours. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent on social media and harassment severity score, H(2)=.25, p=.89, with a mean rank of 66.0 for less than 10 hours, 63.2 for 10-20 hours and 61.1 for over 20 hours. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent on social media and IPV severity score, H(2)=3.04, p=.22, with a mean rank of 43.2 for less than 10 hours, 37.5 for 10-20 hours and 27.4 for over 20 hours.
A series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were again conducted to see if there was any difference in each condition. As can be seen in table 4, no statistically significant difference was found.
Kruskal-Wallis showing differences between social media usage in both vignette conditions.
Technology Vignette Condition
In-person Vignette Condition
A series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were conducted to analyse the difference in worrying behaviours scores, harassment severity scores and IPV severity scores depending on hours spent using technology per week.
A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent using technology and worrying behaviours score, H(2)=.01, p=.99, with a mean rank of 68.1 for less than 30 hours, 68.8 for 30-60 hours and 68.6 for over 60 hours. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent using technology and harassment severity score, H(2)=3.26, p=.20, with a mean rank of 71.2 for less than 30 hours, 62.6 for 30-60 hours and 55.3 for over 60 hours. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no statistically significant difference between hours spent using technology and IPV severity score, H(2)=2.70, p=.26, with a mean rank of 39.9 for less than 30 hours, 41.6 for 30-60 hours and x31.2 for over 60 hours.
A series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were conducted again to see the difference in each condition. As can be seen in table 5, no statistically significant difference was found.
Kruskal-Wallis showing differences between technology usage in both vignette conditions.
Technology Vignette Condition
In-person Vignette Condition
This study provides new empirical evidence regarding individuals' perceptions of what constitutes IPV, specifically concerning whether it is perpetrated in person via technology. Previous research shows mixed results in abilities to identify IPV. Some studies have shown participants have a good understanding of what constitutes as IPV and others have shown a lack of knowledge. However, these studies have not looked at the specific difference between in-person perpetrated IPV and technology-facilitated IPV. Therefore, this study looks at participants' ability to worrying behaviours, harassment and IPV and how these change when the incidents occur in person in comparison to via technology. Overall, it is clear that the majority of individuals possess a good understanding of harassment and when behaviours would be considered worrying in intimate relationships. The vast majority of participants recognised the fictional vignettes as harassment regardless of whether they were shown the in-person or technology vignette. However, as can be seen in table 1, only 60% of participants in the in-person condition and 51% of participants in the technology condition recognised the behaviours as IPV. This suggests a general lack of knowledge concerning the behaviours that constitute IPV as a whole. One reason for the overall lack of identification of IPV behaviours may be the lack of physical violence in the study vignettes. Both focus on the non-physical aspect of IPV due to the nature of the study. Previous research suggests a dominant awareness of violence but less understanding of non-physical aspects of IPV such as coercive control. (cite)
Another possible explanation as to why IPV was recognised at a low rate may be because of the role of gender in the vignettes. Due to increasing research to support the fact that men can, and often are, victims of IPV, the vignette depicted a female perpetrator and a male victim. The vignettes both depict a female as the perpetrator of IPV. Research shows that individuals have a higher level of acceptance of female-perpetrated violence as opposed to male-perpetrated violence (cite). Previous research also shows that female victims of IPV are perceived as less blameworthy than male victims. IPV with a female victim is seen as more serious than when the victim is male (Stanziani, Newman, Cox & Coffey, 2020).
It was hypothesised that IPV will be recognised more when it is perpetrated in person compared to technology and will subsequently be rated more severely. This hypothesis was partially supported. The findings suggest that the way IPV is perpetrated will affect whether people identify it as IPV or not. As can be seen in table x, 70% of the participants who were ‘unsure’ whether the vignettes depicted IPV were in the technology vignette group. However, roughly half of the participants in both vignettes identified the behaviours as IPV. The way the participant's responses differ was in the number of participants who were unsure about the vignettes. The findings suggest a lack of awareness or understanding of what technology-facilitated IPV consists of. These results are similar to Freed et al (2017) who found that IPV professionals and victims felt they had inadequate knowledge regarding the use of technology in IPV. These results are also consistent with statistics from Knowledge something which found that 57% of college students said technology-facilitated dating abuse was difficult to identify.
Although awareness of IPV has continued to grow, these findings suggest IPV perpetrated via technology is still an area where people are uncertain. Research into technology-facilitated IPV shows that victims may justify these behaviours as acts of love. For example, Draucker and Martsolf (2010) found that participants justified controlling or monitoring behaviours as being motivated by care or concern. However, the majority of the participants recognised these behaviours were usually motivated by concerns about infidelity or insecurity in the relationship.
Of the participants who considered the vignette behaviours to be IPV, there was no difference in IPV severity scores between the in-person and technology conditions. This suggests that although individuals are more unsure of what constitutes as technology-facilitated IPV when it is recognised individuals perceive the behaviours to be just as severe as when it is committed in person. This is consistent with previous research by
Harassment in-person and via technology
Secondly, it was hypothesised that harassment will be recognised more when perpetrated in person compared to technology. This hypothesis was not supported. In both conditions, the behaviours were very similar in recognition rates for harassment. As well as this, harassment was rated at a similar rate of severity when the behaviours were committed in person or via technology.
Our findings show the vast majority of the participants labelled the vignette as harassment, 97% of the participants were shown the in-person vignette and 89% were shown the technology vignette (see table 1). This suggests that most people are aware of harassing behaviours in intimate relationships. However, although the participants recognised the behaviours as abusive, this did not necessarily mean they thought it was enough to constitute IPV. One reason why participants may have identified the behaviours as harassment more than IPV may be due to the lack of physical violence in the vignette. Harassment is defined as when a person acts in a way which is intended to cause another distress, this must occur more than once. This is arguably a much simpler term than IPV, which can often be surrounded by much confusion.
Thirdly, it was hypothesised that behaviours will be labelled as harassment rather than IPV in both conditions.
It was also hypothesised that age will impact how worrying behaviours are considered as well as the identification and severity of IPV and harassment. This hypothesis was partially supported. The findings suggest that age affects how severe the participants rated the severity of IPV. The old the participants were, the more severe they rated the IPV.
One possible explanation for this finding may be due to adolescents being unable to recognise technology-facilitated IPV as serious. Glauber, Randel & Picard (2007) found that 78% of young people who have been harassed on social networking sites and 72% who reported being checked up on repeatedly via technology did not disclose this to their parents. The most common reason for non-disclosure was they did not believe it was serious enough to justify disclosure. This finding, along with previous research shows that young people are far less aware of the severity of IPV.
A possible explanation for why age influences the perceived severity of IPV may be due to young people’s inexperience in relationships. Age has been previously identified as a risk factor, and adolescents and young adults have been identified as the most at risk of IPV victimization (cite). With young age being a risk factor and young people being less able to identify IPV, this suggests a need for education on IPV for these age groups. Implementing educational programs for young people around healthy relationships and how to identify IPV may be the first step in reducing rates of dating violence. As this is an age where most individuals are first experiencing intimate relationships, if they are educated on how to identify and how respond to IPV, it could prevent victimization in these crucial years. Also, as previous studies show that adolescent partner violence is strongly associated with experiencing intimate partner violence in adulthood (O’Leary et al 1989; Cleveland et al 2003), early education may prevent further victimization.
Findings show that there was no difference in female participants and male participants for worrying behaviours rating, harassment severity rating or IPV severity rating. This is inconsistent with previous research by Russell, Chapleau & Kraus (2015) who found that IPV incidents were more likely to be rated as abuse by female participants than by male participants.
Societal perceptions of IPV are that it is a gendered issue, this has guided research perspectives which did not allow for the examination of male victimization. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in awareness around males being the victims of IPV. For example,
One possible explanation for the lack of significance may be due to the lack of males in the study. The participants in this study consisted of 37 males and 101 females. The findings were slightly skewed towards female participants perceiving worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity as less severe than for males. The small number of males in the sample may have affected the study’s power to gain a significant result.
Social Media and Technology
It was hypothesised that social media and technology users will have an impact on the recognition and perceived severity of IPV, harassment, and worrying behaviours in both conditions. No previous research was found examining the association between social media usage and IPV identification or technology usage and IPV identification. The findings of this study show no association between the amount of time spent on technology or social media and the ability to identify IPV. There was also no association between social media or technology use and worrying behaviours, harassment severity and IPV severity in both vignettes. A possible explanation as to why no significant result was found may be due to the small sample size. Although there were 138 participants in total in this sample, due to independent measures there were only 68 in the in-person condition and 70 in the technology condition.
This is a foundation study into the different perceptions of IPV regarding whether it is committed in person or via technology and further research should examine more appropriate participant samples in the context of technology-facilitated IPV, such as police and IPV professionals as these are the individuals who deal with these situations most frequently. Furthermore, research into educational professionals and their ability to identify technology-facilitated IPV along with looking into their responses to this IPV. This is crucial as this study along with previous research suggests that young people may be less able to identify IPV than their adults. If teachers can identify the behaviours in these young people, they may be able to prevent IPV victimisation and perpetration.
Participants were not asked about their level of knowledge or history of IPV. This may have affected how they responded to the vignette. One study that examined perceptions of IPV looked into how prior experiences affected participants’ responses. They found that the greater the prior experience with IPV perpetration or victimization, the more normal they rated the IPV scenarios to be. Further research should explore whether the history of technology-facilitated IPV impacts an individual’s perception (Kuijpers, Blockland & Mercer, 2017).
The use of vignettes in a study provides the participants with an opportunity to talk about the sensitive social issue of IPV from a non-personal perspective, which is subsequently less threatening and is less likely to cause the participants harm. However, as both vignettes in this study lack any physical violence the vignette may not have been sensitive enough resulting in less statistical significance in results and smaller effect sizes. Faia (1979) argued that the use of vignettes produces unrealistic results due to the lack of comparison to real life. Participants who read the vignettes are not involved in the situations as they would be in real-life situations.
One limitation of this study is that participants were not offered an opportunity to explain why they believed the vignettes did or did not constitute harassment or IPV. Further research should allow participants to give the reasoning for their response choice to identify a possible cause for the lack of identification of IPV.
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Items for Review
Actions from Review Meeting
Think about more questions for the survey in order to have more complex analysis to conduct
Research and see other vignette studies or any that relate to current study
Survey maker not splitting participants into two groups
Try using a Qualtrics survey maker to see if this is possible
Information sheet and consent form
What gender do you identify as?
Prefer not to say
What is your age?
How many hours do you spend on social media per week?
Less than 10
How many hours per week do you spend using any kind of technology?
Less than 30
In-Person: Chelsea has been dating her partner Sam for 1 year. Chelsea frequently follows Sam to work in the morning to make sure he is not lying about where he is going. She also makes frequent trips to his work throughout the day. Chelsea has on numerous occasions told Sam that he is not allowed to go out and see any of his female friends. Sam has recently found out that Chelsea has been meeting with Sam’s friends and family without his knowledge and claiming that he is being physically abusive towards her. Chelsea will open private letters addressed to Sam, including letters from his family, work and bank statements. She has also demanded that Sam gives her his PIN number and bank card and bank statements.
Technology: Chelsea has been dating her partner Sam for 1 year. Chelsea uses an app called ‘Find My Friends’ to make sure Sam is at work, and continues to use this app throughout the day. Chelsea has also made Sam delete all of his female friends off his social media accounts. Sam has recently found out that Chelsea has been messaging Sam’s friends and family on Facebook claiming that he is being physically abusive towards her. Chelsea will open Sam’s emails from family, work and his bank. She has also demanded that Sam gives her his online banking information
Our team will;
Select Dissertation Topics
Dissertation Proposal (for approval and feedback)
1st half Dissertation