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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Kelly Johnson, BA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology

Contact Dr Kelly Johnson (email at


My areas of research expertise include domestic and sexual violence, policing, and more broadly violence against women and girls. I have particular research experience in the policing of domestic abuse, image-based sexual abuse (including 'cyberflashing', so-called ‘revenge porn’ and ‘upskirting’) and feminist theory.

As a researcher, I am passionate about academic research being used to generate impact, collaboration, and positive social change. To this effect, my research has achieved significant impact to date; it has been used to inform key policy developments, professional practice, and has featured widely in the media.

Outside of the academy, I have worked at several third-sector domestic and sexual violence organisations, including Rape Crisis and Scottish Women’s Aid centres as a volunteer. I have also worked with technology companies, including Facebook and IBM on responding to violence and abuse. I am currently a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Ending Violence Against Women.

For any research, training, media or consultancy enquiries please contact me directly by email.

• Policing Domestic and Sexual Violence

I have developed my research expertise in the policing of domestic and sexual violence through several different research strands.

I am currently working on two policing-related projects. Firstly, I have recently received funding from the ESRC for a national police project, investigating the impact of Covid-19 on domestic abuse. This project is being conducted in partnership with Dr Katrin Hohl (PI), seven police forces, the Home Office, the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council. For more information, please see:

Secondly, I am in the process of conducting an ethnography of police responses to domestic abuse, in partnership with the College of Policing and Nicole Westmarland. With Nicole Westmarland, I am also a founder of the Policing Domestic Abuse Network – to join our network list, please sign up via the following link:

I previously worked at the Home Office’s College of Policing (on an ESRC-funded research placement), where I worked on several studies, including officers’ risk identification and assessment, and police use of discretion when responding to domestic violence. I also worked with Professors Nicole Westmarland and Clare McGlynn, researching police use of ‘out of court’ resolutions when engaging with domestic abuse-related crime. Our research findings were presented to the Justice Select Committee on Restorative Justice, who subsequently endorsed our policy recommendations, to prohibit police use of ‘street-level’ informal disposals in cases of intimate partner abuse.

I also worked with Dr Charlotte Barlow and Professor Sandra Walklate, investigating the impact of the new coercive control legislation on the policing of domestic violence in England and Wales. Through this project, we delivered domestic abuse training to police officers, staff and other statutory and third-sector professionals, and designed a specialist coercive control learning tool which is currently being used by several forces and professional organisations in England and Wales.

• Image-based Sexual Abuse and Cyberflashing

With Clare McGlynn I am currently working on a new project related to image-based sexual abuse, examining cyberflashing and legal responses to this form of abuse.

I recently worked on an international research project (led by Dr Nicola Henry, PI) examining the prevalence, nature and impacts of image-based sexual abuse across three key project sites: Australia, New Zealand and the UK. This has involved me, working closely with Professors Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley in the UK, examining victim-survivors’ experiences of image-based sexual abuse, the harms this form of abuse can engender, and legislative and institutional responses across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. This work culminated in a UK-focused report (see below), which was launched at the Houses of Parliament, and has achieved significant policy and media attention.

Through this research, I have been invited to give presentations to academics and policy makes across the UK, Australasia and Asia. I have also engaged with tech companies as a result of this work, having recently been invited, with Clare McGlynn, by Facebook to present my research findings to their Global Safety Team at Facebook Headquarters in San Francisco.

• European Women’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse

My PhD explored Polish and other European women’s experiences of domestic abuse and service engagement in the UK, through a critical feminist, political economic lens. This work, serves to highlight the interconnections between European migrant women’s experiences of domestic and state violence in Brexit-era Britain.

During this time I additionally worked as an academic consultant for Safer Families Edinburgh (social work), and was a steering committee member for their Respekt project. As part of this, I helped develop a toolkit for social workers and professionals working with Polish families experiencing domestic abuse. I subsequently received the ESRC’s ‘Most Impactful Doctoral Research Prize’ (NEDTC) in 2015 for this work.

Career and Teaching

I joined the Department of Sociology at Durham University as an Assistant Professor in 2018. Since joining the department I have been an active member of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), and I currently convene and teach on the Sociological Approaches to Violence and Abuse, and Policing and Police undergraduate modules. I additionally supervise PhD researchers in a range of topics related to my areas of research. Prior to working at Durham, I worked as a research associate at Lancaster University Law School, and as a visiting lecturer at Colorado College.

Research Groups

Department of Sociology

  • Violence and Abuse

Research Interests

  • Cyberflashing
  • Image-based Sexual Abuse
  • Sexual and Domestic Violence
  • Policing Responses to Domestic Abuse
  • Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)
  • Policing

Selected Publications

Authored book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Print)


  • McGlynn, Clare, Rackley, Erika, Johnson, Kelly, Henry, Nicola, Flynn, Asher, Powell, Anastasia, Gavey, Nicola & Scott, Adrian (2019). Shattering Lives and Myths: A Report on Image-Based Sexual Abuse. Durham University; University of Kent.
  • Barlow, C., Johnson, K. & Walklate, S. (2018). Police Responses to Coercive Control: A Report. N8 Policing Research Partnership, Lancaster University.
  • Johnson, K. (2015). Domestic Abuse Occurrences Involving Polish Nationals: Analysis Report. College of Policing, the Home Office.
  • Johnson, K. (2015). Respekt Evaluation. City of Edinburgh Council.
  • Johnson, K. (2012). Stockton Family Project Evaluation Report: Harbour Support Services. Stockton-on-Tees: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

Show all publications


Indicators of Esteem

  • Awarded the ESRC's (NEDTC) Most Impactful Doctoral Research Prize 2015-2016 :

Selected Grants

  • 2020: 'Responding to the Covid-19 domestic abuse Crisis: developing a rapid police evidence base'. ESRC