TrustVault – Domestic abuse: Hidden in plain sight

TrustVault – Domestic abuse: Hidden in plain sight

Domestic abuse: Hidden in plain sight

Domestic abuse causes often irreversible and life-long mental, psychological, and emotional damage on its victims, even decades after the abuse has stopped. However, the biggest travesty of domestic abuse is that it is hidden in plain sight.

The Office for National Statistics found that in the year ending March 2023, it was estimated that 2.1 million people in the UK experienced domestic abuse. In the same year, however, just 2.4% of these cases were prosecuted, with even fewer receiving a custodial sentence for the perpetrator.

This makes domestic abuse not just an under-reported crime, but an under-prosecuted crime also.

The evolution of TrustVault

To address this, The Tanya Vlok Foundation,, a charity dedicated to enhancing victim survivor support, enlisted the help of ExperienceLab to develop an app that could do just this.

Enter TrustVault.

Building on the work that had already been done to build parts of the TrustVault app, ExperienceLab were recruited to conduct discovery interviews with victim survivors so that the app could be created with the victim survivors at its centre.

Mike Dunn, trustee of the foundation, noted that the need for TrustVault could not be timelier:

“Since Tanya’s death, in August 2021, the foundation’s aim has been to ensure that there was a comprehensive solution to eradicate domestic abuse whilst increasing CPS prosecution rates available in the UK. The current prosecution rates are appallingly low and the support network for victim survivors is totally disjointed leaving many falling between the cracks of the current support system. ExperienceLab offered an inclusive service of customer led research and UX design.”

With the TrustVault MVP set to launch in 2024, ExperienceLab had to work quickly and efficiently to design the app’s core functionality with the victim survivor needs at its centre by March.

Creating a victim-centred app: From discovery to build

Setting to work in December 2023, ExperienceLab conducted discovery research in-depth interviews with eight victim survivors to understand their experiences of domestic abuse, of services, and what they think of an app.

For the victim survivor interviews, the greatest challenge we faced was to find the right balance of giving victim survivors the space to discuss their experiences while not re-traumatising them.

We did this by sense checking the discussion guide with victim survivors to ensure that the language of the discussion guide was victim-led and ensured that we gave interviewees time and space to respond in their own words. We also had a rigorous consent process in place that ensured the victim survivors felt safe to do the interview.

The result was an incredibly rich understanding of the types of traumas that victim survivors have been through, their perception of services and the support they received and, most importantly, where, and how, TrustVault can support them in times of need.

Using the interview data, we mapped out the victim’s journey from the start of the abusive relationship, through to when they decided to leave, and then into the months and years after the relationship had ended.

This revealed multiple pain points that victims experience when navigating support services which we transformed into set of user requirements that were used to create the first user-centred iteration of the low fidelity prototype.

Chantal Sainter, trustee of The Tanya Vlok Foundation commented:

“The Foundation has provided support to hundreds of victim survivors, directly or via police forces or other charities. A huge number of victim survivors, and individuals from support organisations kindly volunteered to give their time and share their lived experiences. The result has been the most detailed and comprehensive set of information from discovery interviews which enabled us to create a genuinely user-centred first iteration of TrustVault.”

Using this prototype, we then tested the wireframe’s design, functionality, navigation, and user journeys in multiple user testing sprints with domestic abuse victims. The feedback from domestic abuse victims uncovered valuable insight that we applied to iteratively refine the wireframes so that it aligns with the victim’s needs.

The low-fidelity prototype and complete design requirements were given back to the foundation at the end of February for the next stage of the build.

The impact of TrustVault

It is a sad situation that an app like TrustVault is desperately needed in today’s world, but we have a responsibility to help those in need. Encouragingly for victim survivors, TrustVault has a mass of very experienced and reputable partners involved in its creation.

These include Microsoft, Serco, and Visa, plus a number of other partners who have offered their support and resources.

These organisations are helping to take TrustVault forward at a significant pace, but it was ExperienceLab that ensured the voices of the victim survivors were built into the DNA of TrustVault:

Mike notes:

“TrustVault will revolutionise the domestic abuse sector, providing a holistic solution to victim survivors whilst ensuring rich and accurate data for CPS prosecutions. The first step to turning the vision into reality was ExperienceLab and we could not be happier with their dedication, care, and professionalism throughout the journey.”

TrustVault is set for launch in 2024. If you want to know any more about ExperienceLab, please get in touch here. For anyone wanting to know more about TrustVault, please reach out to Chantal ( or Mike (

Unpublished form