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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Dr Kelly Johnson, BA, MA, PhD

Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 44673
Room number: 104, 29 Old Elvet

Contact Dr Kelly Johnson (email at


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

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.

I consistently try to engage with professionals and practitioners through my research. Recently, with input from police officers and staff, I co-developed a specialist police learning tool for identifying, investigating and evidencing coercive control, which is currently being used by several forces across England and Wales.

Outside of the academy, I have worked and volunteered for several third-sector domestic and sexual violence organisations, including Rape Crisis and Scottish Women’s Aid centres. I am also 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.

Further information about my research:

  • 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 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 collaborated 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 have additionally collaborated 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.

I am currently working on two further policing-related projects: the first is investigating the different trajectories of domestic abuse cases reported to the police as they traverse through the criminal justice system, and the second is an ethnography of police responses to domestic abuse, again with Nicole Westmarland and the College of Policing.

With Nicole Westmarland, I am a founder of the Policing Domestic Abuse Network – to join our network list, please sign up via the following link:

  • Image-Based Sexual Abuse

I am currently working on an international research project (led by Associate Professor 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 collaborating 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 (awarded by Durham University) explored Polish women’s experiences of domestic abuse and service engagement in the UK, through a critical feminist, political economic lens. This research, which I am currently developing into a monograph, serves to highlight the interconnections between European women’s experiences of domestic and state violence in Brexit-era Britain. Alongside the theoretical outputs I developed from this research, I additionally worked closely with domestic abuse organisations and service providers throughout my PhD; during this time, I was 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, and welcome new applications.

Prior to working at Durham, I worked as a Research Associate at Lancaster University Law School. Additionally, I previously worked as a visiting lecturer at Colorado College and Lancaster University, where I taught modules involving participatory domestic abuse research, and contemporary issues in policing (respectively). 

Selected Publications

Journal Article


  • Johnson, K. (Planned). Domestic Abuse, Political Economy and State Violence: European Migrant Women’s Experiences of Domestic Violence, in the British Borderlands. London: Routledge.

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 :

Research Interests

  • Image-based Sexual Abuse
  • Sexual and Domestic Violence
  • Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)
  • Policing
  • Broader statutory and third sector responses to VAWG