Using the Web to change attitudes

The Scottish Executive is using a new Web site to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

The Scottish Executive is using a new Web site to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

A revamped Web site is playing a key role in the Scottish Executive's ongoing campaign to raise public awareness about domestic abuse.

When the Scottish Executive first set up a domestic abuse Web site in 1999 it was a very simple affair, basically replicating text from its "Domestic Abuse - There's No Excuse" leaflet. However, the response it received led the executive to set up an improved Web site and expand the campaign using new media, such as outdoor posters and posters in ladies' toilets.

"The Web site is seen as a means to reach new audiences with messages that domestic abuse is never justified and that there are places to go for help if it is happening to you," said a spokesperson for the Scottish Executive.

"The Web site is a key part of the current phase of the advertising campaign. Raising public awareness is part of the national strategy to address domestic abuse in Scotland. It plays a part in changing attitudes which condone and excuse abuse and it challenges myths."

The Web-based model has some important benefits. "People can get information without having to talk to someone, if they don't yet feel able to do so," said the spokesperson. "There are also links to all the relevant sites, so you don't have to make a series of phone calls to get information."

The site also features an interactive element. Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse can submit their own stories for posting on the site.

The idea to develop the Web site into its current form came from advertising agency Barkers, which designed the ad campaign. It was Barkers that chose Civic Computing from the list of companies that offered a tender to create the site. Two key factors in the decision were that the company was strong on security and was "reasonably priced".

Barkers staff and representatives from the Scottish Executive met with Civic Computing in early November to discuss the safety aspects, content, style and timetable of the project. The Scottish Executive provided content for the Web site, supported by images from the campaign, and Civic worked closely with Barkers on the look of the site. The site was launched on 6 December.

"Civic has done a great job for us, on a very tight schedule," said the Scottish Executive spokesperson. "It also provided one day's training on editing the site and a content management tool to enable this to be carried out by Barkers and Scottish Executive officials as required."

The Web site, which cost £20,000 to create, received more than 2,000 hits in its first month - a similar figure to the number of people who call the Domestic Abuse Helpline during periods when the advert is being run.

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