Ethical and safety considerations in the use of virtual intimate partner violence (IPV) supports



Intimate partner violence, Virtual services, Online safety and ethics, Social work, Social policy


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health and societal issue that has been further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. IPV impacts individuals, families, and communities worldwide, with women-identified people at highest risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for virtual supports for those experiencing IPV, with service providers adjusting service delivery methods to allow for physical distancing. Virtual or online supports (email, text, videoconferencing, apps) can reduce isolation and provide remote IPV social support, advice, and counselling services, yet they remain an area for further study in practice. In particular, little is known about ethical and safety issues that can arise in providing virtual IPV services. Combining recent research and social work experience with people impacted by IPV, the authors present a commentary paper that summarises ethical considerations when using virtual IPV services. After overviewing recent research on virtual IPV services, the paper outlines five key concerns to consider in providing virtual IPV interventions: 1) service provider training and protocols for assessing safety; 2) protecting privacy and identities; 3) maintaining professional boundaries; 4) financial and access barriers; and 5) cultural and service preferences. The paper concludes with policy and practice recommendations for providing virtual IPV services.

Author Biographies

Stephanie Baird, School of Social Work King’s University College at Western University

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Sarah Tarshis, Carleton University

Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Social Work


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