Design for dignity in a sexual violence response system

Aug 2012 | Design for Health, Master's Projects

Manuela Aguirre Ulluoa & Jan Kristian Strømsnes, 2012

This project was done in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) at the Legevakten emergency hospital in Oslo. Starting this new collaboration with a field and people who have not previously considered the expanded role of design was not an easy task. It was like opening a new field for design and together with the staff from SAC investigate how design can contribute in this case. The project addresses many aspects of SAC, spanning from information to products and interior as well as processes.

Giga Map-01 web

Figure 1. GIGA-map showing the whole landscape of sexual assault. The prevention field to the left and the response filed to the right. The image shows the final map after it was developed through many iterations and developed to the final design artefact shown here. Designing the map is an important reflexive thinking-through-designing process that makes it possible to organise and internalise large amounts of information and to crystallise and design its relations. Follow this link to see a very high resolution sample of this map: http://www.systemsorienteddesign.net/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=189&Itemid=110

System Oriented Design gave them the right tools to get an overview of the whole landscape of sexual violence. The GIGA-map (Figure 1) was based on research into qualitative and quantitative information and on expert knowledge. The research needed to be very extensive. They were entering a field where they knew very little and it was crucial to understand the systems properly to be able to suggest adequate design solutions. Through many iterating and quality checking the information with the experts, the GIGA-map was made as precise as possible. The map also became a tool for the staff at SAC and the collaborating special police unit.  It created an overview of their own work and services and how the whole system operated. This helped the staff to coordinate their perspectives. The map unfolded the processes that victims had to go through at SAC. This initiated a user-centric perspective creating a bases for the design process.


Giga Map-02_web

Figure 2. Cut-out of the GIGA-map that shows the whole sexual assault response system including the SAC and the special unit at the police. This map was developed partly together with the staff from both places and it was very useful for them to get a shared picture of their operation.


System Oriented Design helped the students to gain control of and systematise all of their ideas throughout the design process. The ideas emerged out of the context and the knowledge they gained and out of collaboration with experts. All ideas were documented in relation to the context.

The students reported on the following benefits from GIGA-mapping

– Sharing overview: People will synchronize the same overview

– Understandable, easy to point out and find opportunities for stakeholders and the designers

– Creates a common and understandable setting for dialogue and opportunities where new solution can be placed in the existing system resulting in stepwise improvement of the system.

– The GIGA-map can be used in a training program for staff members, teaching a common synchronized overview of the response system.

– Visualization in GIGA-mapping creates shared images between the designers.


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Figure 3. The map of the user journey to the left was constructed and co-designed with the staff from the police and SAC. While the intention for this mapping was for the students to learn in detail how the system works, it turned out to become a product of its own immediately adopted by the staff for their purpose.


While developing the GIGA-map partly in collaboration with the staff they realized that this overview became a product for the stakeholders. It was then redesigned with the purpose to be used by the staff, helping them to get a better overview of their own system.

GIGA-mapping led the students to create system intervention mapping of all their design opportunities, structuring and documenting their findings throughout the whole design process. From the findings three concepts were taken forward.

  1. Information system – Information folder consisting of easily understandable information to the patient/victim, a personal journal and additional information folders. All in consistent graphic design to signal clear and orderly processes.


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Figure 4. Information folder showing a diagram for the victim of the system and its different steps.


– Patients Journey information map: An overview of the different processes that the patient is going through at SAC, creates a dialogue between patient and staff members. Creates an opportunity for the patient to gain more control of what is going to happen throughout the process. The information system is about to be implemented at SAC.


  1. Safety Blanket

The first item/product the victim interacts with after being sexually assaulted and been taken care of by the mobile police unit. The blanket changes a clinical and cold process of evidence collection, where e.g. paper bags are used on the hands of the victim to prevent pollution of evidence, into a more comforting and dignified situation. The blanket has pockets for the purpose of collecting evidence from the victim’s hands. The Safety blanket can be used in similar other cases where collecting DNA for evidence is needed.

The Safety Blanket seems to be a small detail in the big system, but it is regarded to be important, since it is the first touch-point to the system and it initiates a dignified way of taking care of the victims.


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Figure 5. Information system (left) and Safety Blanket with built in pockets to prevent contamination of evidence on the victims hands (right)


  1. Guidelines for the new Sexual Assault Centre in Oslo

New facilities for SAC are going to be built in a few years. The students designed a prototype for the spaces of the centre, suggesting dignified spaces, changing rooms, contaminated areas and sterile areas and integrated area designed for information systems strategically placed in the area.


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Figure 6. Suggestions for spatial organisation and design for a new SAC. The design seeks to balance between the clinical, the comforting and a calming and neutral atmosphere. The design of the interior and information systems are synchronized.


Typically when designing for complex systems there is not one design intervention or a singular idea or even concept for a service that is sufficient. Many interventions might be needed crossing scales from object scale to spatial scale to organisation.  These interventions will also typically cross disciplines in this case it includes information design, object design, service design and architecture. It also touches upon organization design. The orchestration of these interventions and innovation is essential.