Viral Justice and E-shaming in Social Media Disclosure of Sexual Victimization

ByTamar Berenblum and C.J.W. van den Berg

With the development of internet-based communication, new methods of online shaming have been adopted and employed by the growing number of internet users. This practice gains much attention with regard to sexual victimization. The potential risks of using the internet for social control in general and the practice of e-shaming in particular do not diminish its advantages as a potential tool for enforcing positive norms and contributing to the development of society.

Based on data we collected in the Netherlands and Israel on social media disclosure of sexual victimization, we aim at examining both advantages and risks of such e-shaming as perceived by the victims and the general public.

The current study is an exploratory empirical study into a relatively new phenomenon of online and public disclosure by sexual abuse victims. The motives and needs of the victims will be assessed as well as the effect of online public disclosure. The results will aid theory development, but also have a more practical implication - to improve victim aid to this specific group of victims.

Mixed-method multi-informant approach is being used: (1) descriptive; (2) discourse and content analysis on the disclosure and the reactions following the disclosure; (3) survey and vignette study on the perception and participation in online disclosure by the public; (4) victim interviews; (5) focus group with victim assistance agencies.