Refuge and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency work together to protect survivors of domestic violence


The national domestic violence charity Refuge and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) have been working closely together to protect survivors of domestic violence.

Tech abuse through vehicle tracking

Cathy* had relocated to a new property in an area away from her abusive ex-partner, when a friend alerted her to an update on social media indicating he knew where she was. Being tracked down is a terrifying prospect for women who have experienced domestic abuse and uprooted their lives in the pursuit of safety.

After discussion with professionals at a meeting for high-risk domestic abuse cases, Cathy’s Refuge caseworker realised that he may have found her by checking where she had taken her car for a MOT. At that time, when a number plate was entered on the DVSA website the MOT history, including the name and the address of the garage which carried out the test, was listed.

Collaborating to protect survivors

Refuge staff contacted the DVSA to flag up this potential risk for survivors of abuse, who in many cases need to move far from their home to ensure their safety when they leave their abusive partner. With two women a week killed at the hands of their current or former partners, often shortly after leaving them, the risk is high.

The DVSA were extremely responsive, removing the information within 24 hours. They then went on to work with the Refuge policy team to find a new solution that provides better protection for survivors.

Individuals can now only access MOT location information if they have the vehicle’s V5C number (which the survivor can change as soon as they move to a new address).

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said:

“We’re delighted to have worked with the DVSA to reduce the ways in which perpetrators of abuse can track down survivors. Refuge’s frontline staff will stop at nothing to keep survivors safe, forging new partnerships like this one and challenging systems, which can put survivors at risk.”

Neil Barlow, Head of MOT at DVSA said:

“DVSA is really pleased to recently have worked with Refuge.  We’ve achieved a positive outcome for their vulnerable users while maintaining our road safety aims through open access to data.

“This provides a great example of the public and voluntary sectors working together.

“We’d encourage any charity which sees an opportunity to help make positive changes to our services to contact us directly – just as Refuge did.”

Find out more about tech abuse and available resources.