Post and Trauma: The Use of Social Media by Sexual Assault Victims
In the last few years social media has created supportive spaces in which sexual assault victims can share their testimonies and describe the ongoing impacts of sexual violence on their lives. Victims who turn online have access to advice, information, and narratives offered by others in similar situations and instill the sense that they are not alone. These online forums sustain statements of victimization and render such claims intelligible and meaningful even when they breach social, professional, and legal norms. Thus, online forums operate not only as healing spaces for those who have experienced sexual violence, but also host critical discourse of the criminal justice system. Through online activities, victims can circumvent or complement the classical gatekeepers of public discourse, such as judges and journalists.
This study, one of a few in an unplowed research field, aims to identify the functions that social media plays for sexual assault victims and their attitude towards this new platform vis-a-vis the formal criminal justice system as well as traditional media. The study particularly seeks to address the following questions: What is the typology of victims who are engaged in online groups? What are their motivations, needs and expectations from both the social and traditional media? What is the focus of their critique of the criminal justice system? Which of their subjective needs are being catered to by the criminal justice system, and which by social media? What role – substitute or complement – social media plays in relation to the roles of the criminal justice system and the traditional media? The study is based on over 500 responses to online surveys which we have recently circulated on Facebook pages of sexual assault victims and of communities of interest in Israel, and on in-depth interviews we have conducted with 20 sexual assault victims who have published their testimonies on Facebook.
In this talk we will present the initial empirical findings and discuss our preliminary conclusions.
Dr. Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg is an associate professor at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law (Israel) and a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society and the Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, UC Berkeley (2016-2017). Prior to her graduate studies Hadar served as a law clerk to the Israeli state attorney. Before joining Bar-Ilan she was the academic director of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem legal aid clinic for sexual assault victims. She is a member of the Israeli justice minister’s advisory committee to formulate measures to protect the public against cyberbullying and to fight the phenomenon of shaming on social media. Hadar is also a member of the Minister of Justice Advisory Committee on Criminal Procedure and Evidence Law. Her fields of interest include criminal law and procedure, non-adversarial criminal justice, and the interface between criminal law and gender theories.
Dr. Anat Peleg is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law and director of the Center for the Study of Law and the Media at Bar Ilan University (Israel). She also teaches courses in the school of law and school of communications in Tel-Aviv University. Anat served as the senior legal reporter of the National Israeli Radio for 17 years. She is a member of the Israeli justice minister’s advisory committee to formulate measures to protect the public against cyberbullying and to fight the phenomenon of shaming on social media. She is also a member of an academic advising committee to the Chief of the Israeli Police, and of the executive body of the Israeli Press Council. Her main research interest is the media effects on the legal community and on the judicial process.