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New online tool may help victims of domestic violence seek help

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Whether it’s the stigma or simply fear, reaching out for help can be tough for many victims of domestic violence.

Researchers out of three Canadian universities are hoping a new online tool will change that.

It’s a website called “iCan Plan 4 Safety,” and when a woman visits, a trained researcher is able to help assess risk, understand what kinds of resources she can access, and put together an action plan.

The woman gets a personalized strategy based on her individual situation.

UBC Nursing Professor Colleen Varcoe says it begins with a phone call, and continues over four online sessions over the course of a year.

“This is a way for women who wouldn’t normally access services… or don’t know what’s available, to really just try it out and find out what’s available,” says Varcoe.

She adds it’s also a way to get support in a safe and anonymous way.

Vancouver Counsellor Alyson Jones calls this “exciting,” saying a lot of people just don’t get to the step of seeing someone who can help them.

“But this could be that missing key — the one that helps link that person that’s all alone, feeling isolated, feeling dejected. Being able to get the information and maybe some guidance on how to get to those next steps.”

Researchers are testing the site to see how useful it is for women who are unable or unwilling to use services in the community like hotlines or battered women’s shelters.

The website was created by researchers at UBC, Western University, and the University of New Brunswick.