Groundbreaking Research Integrity Framework

launched by the four Women’s Aid federations

Framework will ensure quality and ethics of domestic abuse research

Today, the four Women’s Aid federations from Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are coming together to publish a framework to show the quality of research on domestic abuse. Developed with and endorsed by academic researchers, this framework provides decisionmakers with clarity on the merits of different types of evidence and research, and the principles of integrity relating to research on domestic abuse.

The framework brings together the knowledge and experience of both academic and NGO partners, drawing on feminist research practice since the 1970s. Going back 50 years, the four federations emerged from the women’s liberation movement and were largely survivor-led. Each federation has engaged, over recent decades, in context- specific research to transform policy, services, and the lives of women and children across the United Kingdom.

This framework recognises that those engaged in collaborative research and evaluation have a responsibility to nurture sound, ethical research and to discourage research practice that is unethical or misrepresents itself and/or victims-survivors’ experiences.

The framework sets out the critical importance of grounding research on domestic abuse within the wider field of violence against women and girls, taking an intersectional approach and ensuring that research focusing on minoritised groups should be carried out by researchers from organisations led by those groups.The four Women’s Aid federations want researchers, organisations, journals, national and local policymakers, and commissioners to sign up to the five pillars set out in this framework.

  • Safety and wellbeing
  • Transparency/accountability
  • Equality, human rights, and social justice
  • Engagement
  • Research ethics.

This framework is intended to start a discussion about what good research practice relating to domestic violence and abuse looks like. The four federations believe that it can form the basis of a broader framework for research in other international contexts, and for further work in relation to research with specific groups, such as black and minoritised women. They welcome discussion to develop this framework in collaborative and appropriate ways.

Professor Evan Stark, forensic social worker, lecturer and author of Coercive Control (Oxford, 2007) said

“The Five Pillars of Research Integrity provide an indispensable framework for building a body of knowledge about domestic violence and abuse that is sound, respectful and based in the experience of the women and children who bear the brunt of coercive control. It responds to the question ‘knowledge for what?’ by ensuring that principles of equity, accountability and justice are built into the research enterprise and making clear that knowledge must always benefit those who provide its substance, whatever other goals it serves.”

Nicki Norman, acting chief executive at Women’s Aid Federation of England, said

“On behalf of the federations of the four nations, we are delighted to launch this framework together with our partner academics. Evidence is critical to our work. Drawing on our national databases, our expertise and the experiences of survivors we and our member services work with, we aim to ensure that policy and practice is based on the real needs of survivors and their children. It is vital that research on domestic abuse is carried out with integrity. This means ensuring diverse survivors – and the organisations that represent them – are meaningfully and safely engaged with. It means that research is grounded in appropriate context and its methodology, and any limitations, are clear and transparent. This transparency is essential for policymakers, commissioners and practitioners to make informed judgements on decisions which impact the lives of survivors. Sadly, over the years we have seen how poor survivor engagement has left survivors re-traumatised, how patchy evidence has been misused to close essential services, and how the experiences of large groups of survivors have been erased by poorly-framed questions. We are pleased to have been able to work with some of the country’s leading academics and our partners to develop what will be a useful tool to drive best practice in this field.”

The Research Integrity Framework was written by the women of the four federationsDr Emma Williamson (1) and Professor John Devaney (2), together with an academic development team including Dr. Maria Pentaraki (3), Professor Nicky Stanley (4), Professor Chérie Amour (5), Dr Claire Houghton6 and Dr Nancy Lombard (7). The framework was reviewed by Imkaan, Respect, the Children’s Commissioner in Northern Ireland and Dr Ravi Thiara (8). 

[1] Dr Emma Williamson (Reader in Gender Based Violence, Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol), Professor John Devaney (Centenary Chair and Head of Social Work, University of Edinburgh), Dr. Maria Pentaraki, Lecturer in Social Work, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast.
[2] Professor Nicky Stanley, Co-Director, Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, University of Central Lancashire.
[3] Professor Chérie Armour, Professor of Psychological Trauma & Mental Health, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast.
[4] Dr Claire Houghton, Lecturer in Social Policy and Qualitative Research, University of Edinburgh.
[5] Dr Nancy Lombard, Reader in Sociology and Social Policy, Department of Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University.


Sarah Green, Director, End Violence Against Women and Girls
Eleanor Lisney, Co-Director, Sisters of Frida
James Watson-O’Neill, CEO, SignHealth
Estelle du Boulay, Director, Rights of Women
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse
Dr. Ravi K. Thiara, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick
Dr. Janet C. Bowstead, British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Shazia Choudhry, Professor of Law and Academic Bencher at the Inner Temple, Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Aisha K. Gill, Ph.D. CBE, Professor of Criminology, University of Roehampton
Professor Anitha Sundari, Professor of Gender, Violence and Work, College of Social Science, University of Lincoln
Professor Evan Stark, Ph.D, MSW, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Professor Betsy Stanko OBE, University College London
Dr. J. (Janna) Verbruggen, Universitair Docent Criminologie / Assistant Professor Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Professor Marianne Hester, Chair in Gender, Violence & International Policy, Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
Dr Catherine O’Rourke, Transitional Justice Institute in Ulster University
Dr Bronagh McKee
Shelia Simons South Eastern Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership
Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist
Edel McKenna Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Danielle Roberts, Policy Officer at HereNI
David Douglas, Southern Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership
Dr Rachel Killean
Natalie Whelehan, policy at NSPCC
Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Yasmin Khan, National Advisor for Wales (Violence against Women, Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence)
The Wales Violence Prevention Unit (VPU)
Dr Ceryl Teleri Davies, Bangor University
Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust
Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender
Dr. Nancy Lombard, Reader in Sociology and Social Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University
Professor Michele Burman, University of Glasgow
Professor Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures at the University of Strathclyde
Fran Wasoff, Emeritus Professor of Family Policies, University of Edinburgh.

© 2020 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

Terms & conditionsPrivacy & cookie policySite mapProtect yourself onlineMedia │ Jobs

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?