Date of Award
Cyber sexual aggression, Cyberspace, Mental health, Relationship quality, Sexual abuse, Sexual functioning
Cyber sexual aggression (CSA) is a prominent issue in society, especially among women, with up to 88% of young women experiencing some form of CSA victimization (e.g., Snaychuck & O’Neill, 2020). Despite this, there is a paucity of research on this topic. The current study examined the prevalence of CSA victimization among emerging adult women attending university, and its impact on young women’s mental health, relationship quality, and quality of sexual functioning. This longitudinal study was conducted online with undergraduate women (Time 1 N = 329; Time 2 N =143).
Hypothesis 1, that higher levels of CSA victimization at Time 1 would be related to lower scores on mental health, relationship quality, and quality of sexual functioning at Time 1, was partially supported; CSA victimization was significantly associated with more DASS (depression, anxiety, and stress) symptoms and lower relationship satisfaction. Hypothesis 2, that higher levels of CSA victimization at Time 1 would be related to lower scores on mental health at Time 2, was not supported. Hypothesis 3, that mental health at Time 1 would mediate the relations between CSA victimization at Time 1 and relationship quality and quality of sexual functioning at Time 1, was partially supported; DASS mediated the relationship between CSA victimization and relationship quality. Hypothesis 4, that reputation at Time 2 would mediate the relationship between CSA victimization at Time 1 and mental health at Time 2, was not supported.
Additionally, I included a qualitative component to examine one act of CSA victimization, its effect on the victim, its impact on their reputation, and women’s perspectives on how CSA can be reduced. The themes involved (a) various experiences of CSA, (b) the patriarchy, (c) the impacts of CSA (e.g., relationships, mental health, distrust of men), (d) internalized sexism, (e) misogyny and rape culture, (f) the low impact CSAhad on women, and (g) the positive impact of CSA (e.g., lessons learned). Regarding women’s accounts of how to reduce CSA, themes included: (a) education, (b) support from the legal system and social media companies, (c) standing up to perpetrators, (d) men not perpetrating CSA, (e) women protecting themselves (e.g., blocking, reporting, and ignoring CSA), and (f) the unlikeliness of CSA being reduced/eliminated.
Last, I qualitatively and quantitively examined perspectives of why women experience sexual aggression in general and online. Regarding why sexual aggression occurs, results generally denoted feminist theories with themes discussing long-standing sexism towards women, including women being ‘inferior’, traditional gender roles, normalized sexual aggression towards women, and men’s ignorance and inability to control themselves. Quantitative data generally replicated these themes with the top two categories being objectification of women and men being ignorant/lacking social skills. Results also supported the online disinhibition effect (Suler, 2004) regarding perspectives of why perpetrators engage in CSA, as well as accessibility and women being more present online. Regarding which platforms women believed were most problematic, they reported several platforms with the most common being private exchanges over Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and texting. Moreover, women indicated that platforms which allowed for private communication, were mainly used to share pictures, had less privacy features, and were associated with dating and sex had higher risk of CSA.
By using a mixed-method design, this study provides researchers and policy makers with important information to help develop new laws and policies and to further our knowledge of CSA. Moreover, these results can support the development of specific prevention and intervention programs, as well as help educators, police, therapists, and even family members learn what they can do to help reduce the risk of CSA.
Daskaluk, Samantha, "#MeToo: Effects of Cyber Sexual Aggression Victimization on Women’s Health and Relationship Quality" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8722.