Post and Trauma: The Use of Social Media by Sexual Assault Victims

Lecture | February 15 | 4:10-5:30 p.m. | 202 South Hall

 Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg and Anat Peleg

 Information, School of

In the last few years social media has created supportive spaces in which sexual assault victims can share their testimonies and describe the ongoing impacts of sexual violence on their lives. Victims who turn online have access to advice, information, and narratives offered by others in similar situations and instill the sense that they are not alone. These online forums sustain statements of victimization and render such claims intelligible and meaningful even when they breach social, professional, and legal norms. Thus, online forums operate not only as healing spaces for those who have experienced sexual violence, but also host critical discourse of the criminal justice system. Through online activities, victims can circumvent or complement the classical gatekeepers of public discourse, such as judges and journalists.

This study, one of a few in an unplowed research field, aims to identify the functions that social media plays for sexual assault victims and their attitude towards this new platform vis-a-vis the formal criminal justice system as well as traditional media. The study particularly seeks to address the following questions: What is the typology of victims who are engaged in online groups? What are their motivations, needs and expectations from both the social and traditional media? What is the focus of their critique of the criminal justice system? Which of their subjective needs are being catered to by the criminal justice system, and which by social media? What role â substitute or complement â social media plays in relation to the roles of the criminal justice system and the traditional media? The study is based on over 500 responses to online surveys which we have recently circulated on Facebook pages of sexual assault victims and of communities of interest in Israel, and on in-depth interviews we have conducted with 20 sexual assault victims who have published their testimonies on Facebook.

In this talk we will present the initial empirical findings and discuss our preliminary conclusions.