UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Demelza Lobb - PhD candidate

Can you briefly describe what your research project is about?

My research project seeks to understand the prevalence of technology-facilitated abuse (tech abuse) in the context of intimate partner relationships. There are several key areas I hope to address through my research such as; the understanding of tech abuse within the Domestic Abuse sector, how the sector assesses tech abuse, and what implementations are currently being utilized to support survivors of this form of abuse. 

In 2018 tech abuse was marked by Comic Relief and the charity SafeLives as a key concern. Thanks to the work of teams that include the G-IoT project at UCL, there is work taking place to explore this form of abuse. Action in response to tech abuse as so far has not been wholly addressed by the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector or research teams previously. Efforts thus far within the industry includes dedicated caseworkers and how-to guides. However, sector-wide understanding, assessment, and responses in their current form require significant development to ensure tech abuse as a risk factor is approached appropriately. 

A key facet I seek to explore will focus on the consideration of tech abuse as a potential high risk of homicide indicator, and its place within Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conferences (MARACs) and the Domestic Homicide Review (DHR). 

How is it different from other research projects in the topic? 

I hope my research will effectively bridge the gap between academic findings and industry implementation. Within the UK research teams that include the G-IoT project at UCL have begun to build this bridge. 

What remains is an understanding of tech abuse as a potential high risk of homicide indicator, alongside an effective method to approach, assess and respond to tech abuse strategically and on the frontline. My research seeks to utilize my experience of the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector, my understanding of key organisational structures, Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) duties, risk assessment tools, and safeguarding to develop industry appropriate options. 

What do you find exciting about this project?

My professional background was for a decade within the Domestic Abuse / VAWG sector. Throughout my time in industry, it was incredibly clear that charities, statutory services, and associated agencies were aware of tech abuse.  

Whilst part of the launching team of the UK’s first tech abuse Domestic Abuse service at Refuge it became evident that tech abuse was pervasive across the nation. However, across the sector, implementation of frameworks, assessment, and responses remain limited or absent entirely. Services that are in place continue to require development and learning due to the evolving nature of tech abuse.  

Therefore, I’m incredibly excited to explore potential industry-appropriate solutions in approaching, assessing, understanding, and safeguarding in the context of tech abuse within intimate partner relationships. It makes me very happy to go on this research journey with my supervisors who I met during their incredibly impactful G-IoT research.  

I’m also finding that being part of the Cybersecurity CDT is incredibly exciting for learning more about the technical side of technology. Being a non-technical, more policy-driven person, this is a big but interesting learning curve! 

What are you working on now to prepare for the next stage of the project?

I am based within UCL’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Cybersecurity. The CDT is an interdisciplinary space focusing on cybersecurity. 

Preparing for the next stage of my project requires the development of my knowledge of cybersecurity. Through this learning journey, I hope I will be able to effectively create a further bridge between survivor support services and the technology industry in combatting tech abuse. 

I am also currently working on reviewing what methodologies, data sets, and initial routes I hope for my research project to take. It is an exciting journey I have ahead!