“Everyone deserves to be happy and safe” – the report about online and offline sexual abuse

The researchers from the universities of Bath and Birmingham explored and compared how online and offline sexual abuse impacts young people, and how professionals respond to it. The report "Everyone deserves to be happy and safe" presents findings worth thinking.



Digital technologies enable ease of access to victims, lowered inhibitions, emotional and digital blackmail.

Young people who took part in the study said that when digital technology was a part of their abuse, it enabled abusive strategies like an increased ease of access to victims, lowered inhibitions, powerlessness, control of the night-time space, emotional and digital blackmail. They also described a number of ways in which their sexual abuse had negatively impacted them. They suffered from suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, anxiety, nightmares, behavioural problems at school, self-blame and low self-worth. Some youngsters felt that the initial abuse had made them more vulnerable to further abuse by sexualising them, leading them to drink heavily or take risks, or by reducing their sense of self-worth and confidence. Many blamed themselves for the abuse. This appeared to be triggered or made worse by unsupportive approaches from professionals, school, peers and family.

If adults had a better understanding of online and digital technology assisted sexual abuse, this could have enabled earlier intervention to stop the abuse.

Online abuse is sometimes perceived as having less impact and being of less immediate concern than offline abuse by professionals. In the same time the research found that online child sexual abuse had the same degree of impact on victims as offline sexual abuse. Professionals are also not always clear what is meant by online abuse so may not realize the full range of technologies that can be used to facilitate it. They may also think there is a clear distinction between abuse that happens online and offline, without understanding that the two can be, and often are, entwined. Technology provides additional routes both to access young people to abuse, and to manipulate and silence them.

The report is available here.

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2017-12-13 15:08.