Was this rape? Exploring women’s use of an online rape and sexual assault forum: A qualitative analysis
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to place an embargo on my thesis to be made universally accessible via ORE, the online institutional repository, for a standard period of 18 months because I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
Evidence suggests that few women disclose, seek help or report their experiences of rape or sexual assault (RSA) to police, which may leave them vulnerable to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, some women may disclose and seek help or support anonymously online. Through conducting a thematic analysis of 212 messages posted by women in an online RSA support forum, I identified two key themes relating to women’s possible motivation for using the forum: to seek validation as a victim of RSA and for others to bear witness to her story. Themes relating to the possible functions of the forum were serving as a jury, assigning blame, encouraging disclosure or help-seeking, and providing emotional support. These findings suggest that women whose experiences of RSA do not match stereotypical depictions may use online forums to anonymously seek out validation that their experiences qualify as RSA. Moreover, the findings suggest that online platforms may provide women with a safe and supportive environment in which to develop a coherent narrative of their experiences of RSA, which in turn may assist some women’s recovery from the trauma of RSA. Future research might explore if NHS online support or psychological interventions are therapeutic for this population.
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology