December 5, 2021

October 20, 2023

Understanding Online Violence Against Women and Girls (OVAWG)

Through mixed methods user research we mapped the prevalence and impact of OVAWG, identified key dynamics characterising how these harms occur, and categorised 18 harm types.

Security & Online Safety


Online Violence Against Women (OVAWG) is a critical and rising issue which we at PUBLIC are passionate about solving. In 2021, PUBLIC was tasked by the Home Office and Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) to deepen understanding in this area to facilitate effective interventions. Our role as a delivery partner was to identify the sources of OVAWG evidence, determine the key actors involved in perpetrating and enabling this form of violence, and explore potential technical solutions for combating it.


To address this challenge, we conducted a research discovery as part of the Online Safety Data Initiative. Our approach involved two primary components. In the desk research phase, we conducted a literature review, mapping key features, and creating a harm types working taxonomy. This phase involved the analysis of 100 text-based resources from government, academic, and civil society sources. Through this process, we mapped the prevalence and impact of OVAWG, identified key dynamics characterising how these harms occur, and categorised 18 harm types.

In the stakeholder research phase, we conducted in-depth interviews with 15 experts from civil society and academia. These interviews were designed to explore existing solutions, understand the challenges involved, and refine the harm taxonomy and definitions. The insights derived from both the desk and stakeholder research phases were used to identify key Safety by Design approaches and Safety Tech solutions to counter OVAWG effectively.


Our research generated several significant outcomes. It contributed to an enhanced understanding of OVAWG, providing valuable insights to inform evidence-based decision-making. Most crucially, we pinpointed challenges and opportunities for government intervention and presented strategic recommendations aimed at guiding both industry and government in addressing OVAWG. This research initiative had a tangible impact, leading to the establishment of a working group by the Home Office. This group’s purpose was to create a VAWG Code of Practice for online service providers, and this initiative was significantly informed by the research findings, marking a positive step forward in combating OVAWG.


Photo by the author

Maya Daver-Massion

Former Team Member

Explore more insights

Stay in the loop!

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to get a snapshot of PUBLIC’s impact across the public sector, thought-leadership from our experts, and opportunities to get involved!