On SAGE Insight: #MeToo: Disclosure and Response to Sexual Victimization on Twitter

From Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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Sexual violence is a pervasive public health problem, with one in five women experiencing attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Sexual victimization is associated with a range of serious physical and psychological consequences The act of disclosing trauma is believed to enhance an individual’s ability to contextualize the experience, thereby allowing the survivor to develop a more coherent narrative of their experience Communication on Twitter surrounding violence against women often occurs through the use of “hashtags” that allow users to engage in shared discourse.

This study examined utilization of the Twitter hashtag #MeToo, which emerged in 2017 as a method for disclosing personal experiences of sexual victimization. These social media data were collected over five consecutive weekdays (October 16, 2017 to October 20, 2017) at approximately 11:30 a.m. each day. Data collection resulted in garnering a total of 64,999 tweets. The data highlight the ways in which individuals incorporate characteristics of their assault to disclose experiences of violence on social media and also how individuals utilize social media to name themselves as a survivor of violence, more generally. Survivors who disclosed using #MeToo identified with a larger community of survivors of sexual violence, disclosed at specific users using the hashtag #MeToo, or shared the who, what, where, when, why, and how of their assault—including the emotional impact of the violence experience and the tactic used by the perpetrator. The findings indicate the continued need to educate the public on the nuanced physiological and psychological impacts of sexual violence, as well as proper responses to disclosure of sexual trauma.

Abstract

Communication on Twitter surrounding violence against women often occurs through the use of “hashtags” that allow users to engage in shared discourse. The present study examined utilization of the Twitter hashtag #MeToo, which emerged in 2017 as a method for disclosing personal experiences of sexual victimization. Specifically, the present study sought to clarify how Twitter users utilized the #MeToo tag to disclose and respond to sexual violence by conducting a qualitative analysis of a random sample of tweets using #MeToo (N= 1,660). Survivors frequently prioritized the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” of personal trauma experiences when disclosing using #MeToo. Twitter users also reflected on the prevalence of violence in society, acted as advocates to highlight the problem of violence against women, called attention to the experiences of other survivors of violence, or utilized the forum in a manner that distracted from survivors’ experiences. The present data highlight the utility of Twitter for raising awareness regarding the prevalence of sexual violence, and providing a space where users can share personal trauma, connect to others with similar experiences, and provide support to others.

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Article details
#MeToo: Disclosure and Response to Sexual Victimization on Twitter
Katherine W. Bogen, Kaitlyn K. Bleiweiss,  Nykia R. Leach and Lindsay M. Orchowski
First Published May 22, 2019 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0886260519851211
Journal of Interpersonal Violence

     
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