The influence social media and the criminal justice system have on the re-victimisation of female sexual assault victims and the perceptions of female safety

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Portsmouth

Principal Researcher

Lauren Voice

Level of Research


Project Start Date

January 2020

Research Context

​This research aims to investigate the influence that online victim-blaming behaviours and social media movements have on the re-victimisation of sexual assault victims and whether females experience a lack of confidence with the CJS due to evidence-gathering procedures. In addition, the researcher aims to identify whether social media movements and these evidence-gathering procedures affect the reporting of sexual assaults.

This research has been prompted by the media coverage of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announcing the policy of handing over phones in cases of rape. It has been reported that failing to hand over phones can result in no case being built against a potential perpetrator; therefore, leading to a lack of confidence victims have with the CJS (Bowcott, 2019). This lack of confidence in the police is only proven further with cases being reported of official police Facebook pages posting victim-blaming posts about female sexual harassment and assault (Lynn, 2019). There is also the recent case of the British teen in Cyprus being prosecuted for falsely reporting a gang rape against her, even though it was reported that she experienced hours of interviewing and was forced to change her statement (Tideman, 2019).

Further studies have shown that it is not unusual for police to suggest to victims of sexual assault to not proceed further with their reports due to the fear of re-victimisation (Spencer, Dodge, Ricciardelli & Ballucci, 2018). The rise of social media has brought faster and easier methods for people to share their views on subjects like sexual assault (Fairburn & Spencer, 2018). This brings the opportunity for victim-supporting solidarity but also results in an increase of victim-blaming posts (Stubbs-Richardson, Radar & Cosby, 2018). This type of victim-blaming comes into the rape culture that is often seen in a society where it is normalised for sex to be about male domination over females (Herman, 1984); thus, creating a fear of sexual assault amongst females (Vera-Gray, 2018). This victim-blaming and normalisation of sexual assault creates the idea that the fault is on the female and that it is up to them to change their behaviours to avoid being sexually assaulted (Bates, 2014). This in effect makes females feel less safe and fear serious crime (Bates, 2014; Merianos, King & Vidourek, 2017; Vera-Gray, 2018).

Research Methodology

​This research plans to use qualitative methods; online data analysis and focus groups to ensure a rich data set is achieved. This will then be analysed using thematic analysis. The online data analysis will be conducted by collecting Twitter data; with it being anticipated that between 300 and 500 Tweets will be used - these will be analysed using a deductive approach of thematic analysis. It is then hoped that two focus groups will be carried out using between 5 to 10 participants in each group - the data collected will be analysed using an inductive approach of thematic analysis.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

August 2020
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