Women experiencing domestic violence shown they are Not the Only One on new website

A new website is providing a secure forum for Australian women who have suffered domestic violence to share their stories anonymously. The Not The Only One website hopes to build a support network with solidarity found in shared experiences, while also informing the community about the context and dynamics of domestic violence.

Domestic violence has been a growing part of the national conversation as we face statistics that one in six women experience violence from a current partner, while on average one woman per week is killed as a result of domestic violence. The statistics are daunting. Services in Australia struggle to keep up and many shelters are forced to turn women away because they just do not have space.

While resources are stretched, many women are not inclined to access services for a variety of reasons. Some are unsure if their current situation qualifies as domestic violence, others don’t identify as a victim or are scared to take action. Many are hesitant to disclose their experiences in a face-to-face encounter in a formal setting because domestic violence can be such an intimate and traumatic story to share.

Not the Only One has created a space where Australian women who have experienced domestic violence can share their story, read stories shared by others at various stages of their journey, and find critical resources about domestic violence in Australia with the security of anonymity.

Launched in February, the website is an initiative of the Department of General Practice’s Researching Abuse and Violence program (RAVE), and funded by the Melbourne Networked Society Institute (MNSI). The project is affiliated with the Melbourne research Alliance to End ViolencE against women and their children (MAEVe), and involved an interdisciplinary team of researchers across the University.

At the head of the project is Dr Laura Tarzia who has worked extensively in researching abuse and violence with particular focus on how technology can aid intervention and response.

“Often women feel like they’re the only one going through domestic violence. They don’t necessarily have someone to talk to about it or they’re not comfortable accessing formal services for support.

“The thinking behind this website is that they would have a place to tell their story, feel heard and validated” said Dr Tarzia.

Not The Only One has a clean, simple layout that allows visitors to read and share stories anonymously.

A ‘Quick Exit’ button means users can make a hasty exit from the site, while a ‘This is Like Me’ button works to show support for a story. Comments are not allowed and the website is moderated to ensure it remains a safe space.

Developer on the project, Anchalee Laiprasert, worked directly with women survivors of domestic violence in designing the website to ensure it provided what is needed.

"Anonymity and safety for the users were important factors in the design. We encourage users to exclude any identifying information in their story, such as names, but we also don't track how many stories they submit.

"So if someone else manages to log into their account, that person cannot see the stories that have been submitted by that user. It is safe in that context." said Ms Laiprasert.

“There are some very basic guidelines around the stories we are accepting,” Dr Tarzia points out.

“At the moment it is only a space for women, although we do acknowledge that men also experience domestic violence. We are only accepting stories that are about domestic violence by an intimate partner.

“Other types of abuse such as child sexual abuse and sexual assault that are not by a partner are not really in the scope of what this site is for.

“The rationale behind that is that we are trying to create a community of shared experience and different types of abuse have different context” she said.

Each story is accompanied by a “This Is Like Me” button that readers can click to express their empathy for a story.

The website also contains resources for anyone feeling triggered by its content.

“We recognise there is a chance of people reading these stories to be re-traumatised by that,” says Dr Tarzia.

“We have some guidelines for self care. Whether you are reading or writing a story on our website, to have a strong emotional reaction is a normal response.

“There are a few suggestions for people that are feeling triggered such as taking time out, or breathing exercises that you can do wherever you happen to be.”

It is this concern and care for its participants that give Not The Only One a compassionate feel.

At its essence Not The Only One is a database of survivor stories, but it has promise to evolve into something bigger. Dr Tarzia wants to see the website expand to include multiple languages and engage women from diverse cultural backgrounds.

“We will be looking for future funding to properly evaluate the impacts of the website in achieving its aims. At the moment it is there to help as many women as possible get on there and share their stories.”

More Information

Kate Murray