Online disclosure of sexual victimisation: A systematic review


We map the available scientific literature on how and why victims of sexual violence use digital platforms in the aftermath of victimization. Twenty-four empirical studies on sexual victimization and online disclosure were identified by systematically searching Web of Science and PsycINFO, checking reference lists, and consulting authors about relevant publications. The literature on online disclosure of sexual victimization does not yield a coherent picture. International literature pays limited attention to the various components of online disclosure like the characteristics of victims who disclosure online and the characteristics of the disclosure messages. Most studies focused on motivations for and reactions to online disclosure. Victims of sexual violence disclose sexual victimization online to seek support for clarification and validation, unburdening, documenting, seeking justice, informing others, or commercial goals (individual-oriented disclosure) and to provide support, educate, and as a form of activism (other-oriented disclosure). Responses to online disclosure are predominantly positive. Negative responses are rare. This review provides a comprehensive overview of multidisciplinary empirical information and displays knowledge gaps in victimological research. Future research should use robust quantitative and/or qualitative designs with substantial sample sizes, comparing victims who do disclose their sexual victimization online to victims who do not and comparing disclosure on different online platforms to increase generalizability. Potential for online support is identified, in which online disclosure can serve as a relatively safe alternative to off-line disclosure. This offers points of intervention for assistance and victim support in facilitating the use of the internet for support for victims of sexual violence.

Trauma, Violence, & Abuse