An Open Letter to Women in Data Science

It was my honor to present at the Women in Data Science convening at the New College of Sarasota last week.  The agenda featured prestigious speakers from Stanford streamed in, along with local speakers like me who could attend in person.  I was extremely fortunate to discover this amazing event and get onto the agenda at the last minute.

You see, these are my people.  Women in data science are what I need in 2017.*  

My company, Big Mountain Data, is designed to solve one of the most horrific problems that impact women around the world – every day: Intimate Partner Violence a.k.a., Domestic Violence.

My presentation briefly described what we aim to do and how we can disrupt this seemingly intractable societal issue.  I then described the success we’ve had so far in proving our thesis.  I showed a short clip from our documentary about a town that effectively short-circuited its domestic violence problem.  One woman told me she cried after she saw the short film clip. Crying absolutely permitted in social impact startups solving big world problems.

A career in data science is one of the most lucrative, interesting, and potentially ground-breaking pursuits in the tech field today. Name an industry, and it has an acute demand for data scientists and analysts.

But what if you could use your talent and passion to really make a difference on a horrific scourge that impacts women every day? Here is what you need to know: behaviors in this field follow a standard pattern. They are predictable.  Much of the data we need to make these predictions, we already have in structured databases.  If we layer on unstructured data, the possibilities are limitless to intervene – and disrupt –these cycles of violence.

Would you like to know more?  Contact me.  I would love to talk to your company, university or data science meetup about the possibilities.

*Of course, we are an equal opportunity startup.  But, how cool would it be if women solved this problem?  Very cool.

Let’s go!


Big Mountain Data Assembles Data Analysis Panel at #IACP2016

IACP2016Law enforcement is on the front lines of domestic violence.  Before we can implement policies and procedures to hold offenders accountable, we need to get an accurate portrayal of what is happening behind closed doors in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

Domestic violence rears its ugly head every day where at least three people are murdered at the hands of someone they know intimately.  On average, across the U.S., domestic violence homicides constitute at least a third of all homicides every year. Moreover, it’s one of the most predictable homicides law enforcement must confront on an annual basis. Officers new to the force start to see the predictable patterns emerge soon after they begin their careers.  It’s for this reason, Big Mountain Data works with law enforcement to demonstrate how the data they have already in their RMS and CAD systems can reveal answers today.

Our longtime partner, SunGard Public Sector, invited us to orchestrate a panel at this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference to discuss how data analysis played a major role in the highly successful High Point Model, now recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women.

The workshop will be moderated by V.P. Kevin Lafeber, of SunGard Public Sector. Participating on the panel will be retired Chief Marty Sumner, who led the domestic violence initiative for High Point for the past 7 years, as well as the crime analysis team from High Point and SunGard PS that had to modify the RMS in order to effectively implement the ground-breaking tracking system.  Chief Ken Shultz will talk about future improvements and enhancements to the OFDVI strategy.

The IACP conference will be held October 15-18 in San Diego, CA. This session will fill up early, so be sure to reserve your spot.




Two New Additions to the Big Mountain Data Advisory Board

In January of 2015, I was invited at the request of the High Point Police Department, to learn about the agency’s incredible work on domestic violence.  It was a full two-day workshop and law enforcement agencies from around the country attended.  Also present were representatives from The Battered Women’s Justice Project, the Department of Justice, John Jay College, and The Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR).


Sandi Murphy, Battered Women’s Justice Project, asking the tough questions about the High Point Model for domestic violence offender deterrence.

Sandra Tibbetts Murphy, BWJP

Before I got to the meeting, I met a woman in line at the car rental counter.  We exchanged jokes and pleasantries about the inefficiency (understatement) of the car-renting process.  When I got to the HPPD workshop, I spotted this same woman in our session!   That woman was Sandra Tibbetts Murphy.  She asked tough questions in our workshop, and I made a mental note to be sure to connect with her after the two-day training class was over.

Sandi is a world-class attorney who’s written extensively on scholarly and legislative aspects of domestic violence law.  Many times, I’ve reached out to her over this past year and asked her to clarify aspects of the law I didn’t fully comprehend.  She has always been patient and kind to give me her best insights on her interpretation of the law or the issue I was addressing.

Today, I’m proud to announce Sandi is joining our esteemed Board of Advisors.  She will now be able to engage with our extended team on our enterprise social network, and help guide and inform our understanding of the law.

Retired Chief Marty Sumner, HPPD


Chief Sumner’s May 2016 retirement party in High Point. A still from our film footage.

The second superstar joining our board is someone I’ve come to know and admire since our very inception.  In fact, it was his words spoken on national television in September 2014, that compelled me to jump out of my seat and demand to know more.  At the height of the Ray Rice saga, ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos ran an investigative segment on domestic violence.  I will never forget the words I heard that day:

“In the five years before we began this, we had 17 domestic-related violence homicides.  In the five years since, we’ve only had one.”  – Chief Marty Sumner,  September 2014.

Chief Sumner retired from his 31-year in law enforcement last May.  He has an unparalleled understanding of crime data, and especially domestic violence data. For the past 7 years, he led the initiative to apply focused deterrence to High Point’s domestic violence problem that was once over a third of the city’s homicides.  What has come to be known as the High Point Model has now been recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women, resulting in a $1.6M contract to the National Network for Safe Communities for replication and further evaluation.  The High Point story is the subject of our documentary. It was Chief Sumner who led the effort to perform a thorough analysis of the city’s domestic violence data, make necessary modifications to the law enforcement software, and implement a system of reporting and alerts that established the baseline that fueled the High Point Model’s success.

The addition of these two strong advocates for change have added a new layer of credibility and strength to our mission.

Big Mountain Data to Participate in Police Data Initiative Data Dive

Last spring, the White House announced the Police Data Initiative (PDI).   When we saw the announcement, it immediately piqued our interest.  Big Mountain Data’s mission is predicated on openness and transparency with regard to the data that can be collected, analyzed, and reported on intimate partner violence.  Via our partner Socrata and our contacts at the Sunlight Foundation, we reached out to see if we could begin to form a community of interest for knowledge-sharing and best practices specific to intimate partner violence data within the PDI.


We were thrilled to hear last summer that Orlando joined as the first city in the state of Florida to join the PDI.  Orlando has an excellent reputation for community engagement, a strong technology base, and a progressive law enforcement agency keen on innovation. Orlando Police Chief John Mina even attended a forum with President Obama in October to discuss criminal justice reform and specific ways data can be made available to the public.

As the Orlando Police Department (OPD) prepares to release data on the open portal, the agency has been exploring how featured areas of interest can be examined in a “data dive” forum that will bring together subject matter experts in the community, law enforcement, and city government.  Lucky for us, the first data dive effort to explore this new form of collaboration will be focused on domestic violence and sexual assault data.  The event is invitation-only, and we are pleased to be taking part in this exciting inaugural event.  Representatives from the state involved in advocacy work, as well as local advocates and data experts will be sharing their expertise along with local government officials and law enforcement.  The goal of this session is to bring people together to preview the datasets, provide feedback before final public release, and generally kickstart conversations on how increased transparency can help inform programs and introduce new approaches in the spirit of better protecting and serving the community.

The Director of Innovation for the City of Orlando, Matt Broffman is leading this effort on behalf of the city.  He’s done a terrific job of coordinating the stakeholders involved in the event, as well as setting expectations.  The event will take place on January 27th in the afternoon.  Big Mountain Data has provided input for suggested themes worthy of exploration by the participating teams and will be contributing the talents of Stacy Sechrist and John Weil from University of North Carolina – Greensboro who have worked together over three years analyzing a decade’s worth of domestic violence crime data.  We are very optimistic that this workshop will be an excellent catalyst to launch many conversations on the strategic use of police data to thwart violence against women in central Florida.  We are thrilled to be a part of this historic event.  If the workshop yields good results, this model could be replicated to other PDI sites.


#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft: A Data Analysis


#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft: Big Mountain Data Shares Findings from Landmark Social Conversation on Domestic Violence

Organization Draws on Data from Viral Social Media Event to Reveal Scale of Domestic Violence. Survivors Find Their Voice and Strength in Numbers.

Visualization of hashtags

A Social Network Visualization of the Hashtag Activity

LAKE MARY, Fla. (September 8, 2015)Big Mountain Data, an organization focused on developing data-driven solutions to help in the fight against family abuse and violence, announced today the release of new insights into the impact of domestic violence on women, including why many stay in abusive relationships and why they ultimately leave. Based on the scale of the viral #WhyIStayed #WhyILeft Twitter conversations, the event represents a milestone in domestic violence history, as thousands of abuse survivors came forward independently on social media to tell their stories.

Susan Scrupski, founder of Big Mountain Data, commented, “The number of women who bravely came forward to tell their authentic stories of abuse and their reasons for staying or leaving brought the topic of domestic violence front and center, highlighting the pervasiveness of the problem in our society.”

Developed with its partners, Salesforce and The Tremendousness Collective, Big Mountain Data’s release of this data coincides with the one-year anniversary of when the world witnessed the tragic video of professional football player Ray Rice abusing his then-fiancée in an elevator at an Atlantic City, N.J. hotel. Though horrific to watch, the video had one unintended positive consequence: it got people talking about domestic violence. Yet in addition to voicing outrage at the incident, many Twitter users had the same question about Rice’s fiancee: “Why didn’t she just leave?”

infographic_artIn response to this criticism of the victim, a survivor of domestic abuse, Beverly Gooden, shared her story of why she stayed in an abusive relationship. Soon after, more and more women began to share their own stories on Twitter under the hashtag, #WhyIStayed. As the conversation proliferated, more survivors came forward with their stories of leaving their abusers, and another hashtag was created: #WhyILeft. The posts quickly became the #1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States.

Big Mountain Data, which uses advanced analytics and data science to help solve pressing social problems in the fields of domestic violence and family abuse, recognized the importance of this Twitter phenomenon as a turning point in the public conversation on domestic violence. The organization aggregated the activity over the period September 8 to December 1, 2014, to reveal the scale and magnitude of the survivor voices who came forward. The conversation spiked on September 9 with 77,544 tweets in one day. With 85,687 original hashtagged posts and mentions, and nearly 185,794 posts and retweets for #WhyIStayed and 63,883 posts and retweets for #WhyILeft, the results provide a glimpse into the complexity and scale of intimate partner violence. Most importantly, the fast-paced, viral exchange empowered survivors to come forward en masse from out of the shadows of an abusive past. Survivors found refuge and resolve in the community that grew organically with each subsequent tweet and media mention.

“Our goal is to leverage the power of big data analysis in the fight against domestic abuse,” said Scrupski. “Transparency is the antidote to a social epidemic that thrives on secrecy. In the magnitude of the response, women displaced their shame with a moral obligation to educate the public about the realities of living with an abusive partner.”

“As designers, our goal is to create clarity and impact,” added Scott Goldstein, a co-founder of The Tremendousness Collective. “We’re proud to have collaborated on this project. Domestic violence and family abuse is an important issue and the survivors who shared their stories deserve our continued attention and support.”

Big Mountain Data has presented the findings of this analysis in an infographic and a detailed presentation. The company will also offer the data on its open data platform hosted by Socrata, enabling researchers to conduct their own in-depth analysis on this important subject.


About Big Mountain Data

Big Mountain Data employs advanced analytics and data science to support partners and clients as they solve pressing social problems in the fields of domestic violence and family abuse. We offer services to organizations that seek to have positive social impact: non-profits, social enterprises, foundations, law enforcement, government agencies, and businesses aligned with our mission.

About The Tremendousness Collective

The Tremendousness Collective is a design firm that makes complex things understandable and engaging by combining visual frameworks with narrative stories. We explain complex ideas, innovations, products, and processes across multiple mediums including videos, infographics, data visualizations, presentations, visual maps and posters, editorial design and illustration, collaborative workshops, brand identities, and more.

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Note to editors: Trademarks and registered trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

Media Contacts:

Susan Scrupski, Founder, Big Mountain Data

553-553-6095 @bigMdata

Scott Matthews, Partner, Tremendousness

314-651-5227 @tremendo_us

Status of Women in the States Report Presents Data on Domestic Violence

iThis week we’re cheering the important work of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Since 1996, the organization has collected data, crunched the numbers and presented valuable reports via its Status of Women in the States project. The organization has earned a solid reputation as a credible and valuable resource. Its data is often cited in the media on issues including poverty, pay equity, reproductive justice and health – issues often connected with domestic violence.

This spring, IWPR has published updated data and trend analysis on women’s economic, social, and political progress in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States overall. The reports include: Employment & Earnings, Poverty & Opportunity, Work & Family, Violence & Safety, Reproductive Rights, Health & Well-Being, and Political Participation. Each includes interactive maps that highlight the issue and well-documented data.

Earlier this month the organization released its report on violence and safety, which includes a section on intimate partner violence. The report echoes a concern of Big Mountain Data. “Quantitative data on these issues are limited, especially at the state level,” it notes. It also notes the many state laws address domestic violence offenders but many “may also fall short of providing the full range of protections that women need.”

The 43-page is full of information worthy of a close read. (It also includes troubling data on stalking, teen violence dating, campus sexual assault and trafficking.) Highlights include:

  • In 2012, 924 women in the United States were killed by an intimate partner.
  • 19% of women in the United States are raped at some time in their lives, and 43.9% experience other forms of sexual violence.
  • Multiracial and Native American women are more likely to experience rape and sexual violence than other groups of women.
  • Tactics of abusers may include not only sexual abuse or rape, but also reproductive or sexual coercion.
  • Domestic and sexual violence puts women and girls at higher risk of sexually transmitted disease.
  • Anti-violence programs and services for victims are unavailable to many.
  • Courts often do not take allegations of domestic abuse into account in child custody cases

The report underscores the need for efforts that go beyond “awareness,” focus on the root causes of domestic violence and hold offenders accountable. Despite progress, the report notes, “threats to women’s safety continue to profoundly affect their economic security, health, civic engagement, and overall well-being.”