Sexual Violence Is #NotOkay: Social Reactions to Disclosures of Sexual Victimization on Twitter

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Abstract

Objective: The present study sought to characterize social reactions to disclosures of sexual violence that occurred online through the Twitter hashtag #NotOkay. Method: A sample of 306 original content, English-language tweets containing the hashtag #NotOkay were collected via the NVivo software addition NCapture over a period of 5 nonconsecutive weekdays. Qualitative content analysis was conducted by a 3-person team. Results: Ullman’s (2000) Social Reactions Questionnaire served as a preliminary coding guide. Resulting themes included egocentric and distracting social reactions (which are commonly classified as negative responses), as well as a range of positive social reactions (providing emotional support, providing tangible or informational aid, and expressing validation and belief). Advocacy and taking responsibility for social change also emerged as positive responses within the online forum. It unclear whether tweets that distracted from survivors’ experience by commenting broadly on the prevalence of violence, or by placing responsibility on perpetrators, would be considered as helpful or hurtful by survivors. Conclusion: The resulting classification of online social reactions to disclosure of sexual victimization differs from existing classification systems of in-person social reactions to disclosure, suggesting that online forums may offer a unique context for disclosing violence and receiving support. Online forums may also provide an opportunity for support providers to engage in advocacy and voice a desire for social change, forms of social support that may not be provided in the context of an in-person disclosure. Future research may examine whether survivors who disclose on social media receive the support they desire.

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