iCAN Plan 4 Safety Randomized Controlled Trial


The first interactive, internet-based safety planning tool for women experiencing IPV was developed and tested in the USA. Working with these researchers, we adapted and tested this approach in Canada.
Safety planning tools help women weigh the dangers of leaving or staying in a relationship, and plan, based on their own priorities and living situation, safety strategies for themselves and their children.
iCAN Plan 4 Safety was not developed as a replacement for shelters or other counselling and support services, but as another option for women who may never access these services or to help them find a local service that fits with their needs.

iCAN Randomized Controlled Trial:

From 2013 to 2017 we conducted a randomized controlled trial of the iCAN Plan 4 Safety tool, which guides women through a series of questions and exercises, and then generates a personalized safety plan and custom resources based on her responses. The study tested the effectiveness of the iCAN tool in improving the mental health of Canadian women experiencing IPV, compared to a control website with a static, non-tailored set of resources.  In-depth interviews were also conducted with women who had taken part in the trial.
Following analysis of the iCAN trial data, the tool was further adapted to integrate key lessons learned and to develop a mobile app, to make the tool even more accessible to women.

The project had 3 phases:

Phase 1: we adapted the American version to apply to diverse groups of Canadian women; one particular focus of the Canadian work is having tailored safety options focused on emotional safety. In doing this work, we sought feedback from stakeholders representing the diversity of community interests and women’s needs. We consulted with experts from varied sectors (e.g. community-based VAW services, victim’s services, legal supports, mental health and health care) to ensure that the information we included was accurate and appropriate for diverse groups of Canadian women. We also pilot tested the online tool with 30 stakeholders (15 service providers and 15 women with lived experience) and, based on their feedback about its content, format and ease of use, we refined the tool.

Phase 2: using a randomized controlled trial design, we tested whether the tool improves the mental health women experiencing IPV, increases their safety behaviors and prevents re-abuse. A sample of 450 women were randomly assigned to either complete the iCAN tool or visit a control website.

Phase 3: in-depth face-to-face interviews with 30 of the women who took part in the trial to understand their experiences of using the SDA for their safety planning and other IPV-related decision-making.
We partnered with key stakeholders throughout the three phases to ensure that the research addresses existing and anticipated user needs, and that our findings could be shared quickly and effectively.