Survivors Online: A netnographic analysis of the\ud emerging role played by the Internet as a source\ud of support for survivors of sexual violence
This thesis examined the use of the Internet as a source of support for survivors\ud of sexual violence. Overall, the results of the thesis provided an in-depth analysis\ud of how the use of an online support group is beneficial in terms of support for\ud survivors of sexual violence due to the safety afforded by anonymity, control of\ud presentation and interactions, and emotional meaningfulness of the contact\ud between members.\ud This exploratory research illustrated how survivors use online support to cope\ud with victimization, indicating that online support groups offer a unique context\ud in which new beliefs and ideas about problems can be constructed. More\ud specifically, using data collected from an online support group\ud (“Survivors Online”) for survivors of sexual violence, the thesis incorporates\ud three studies. The first study elicited stories, in the form of narratives about the\ud survivors’ experiences of social support, to inform as to why these survivors\ud have turned to an Internet group for that support. Understanding how survivors\ud make meaning from their experiences of sexual violence is essential in\ud understanding the impact of sequelae and subsequent coping.\ud Study two examined how the site functions to allow for the provision of social\ud support by determining the quality and quantity of support messages exchanged\ud on the most popular message board on the site. The data showed that the\ud support group is beneficial in alleviating the psychosocial sequelae related to\ud stressful life events.\ud Finally, study three assessed how survivors use the Internet to seek social\ud support by documenting the site members’ type of Internet usage (e.g., email,\ud chat rooms, etc.), effects of usage on the survivors (such as whether the support\ud site has changed how they use conventional methods of support), and how the\ud support received is viewed by the members of Survivors Online (in terms of the\ud perceived best and worst aspects of Internet support). The results suggested\ud that the online support site is a valuable tool where survivors can receive and provide social support with people experiencing similar issues. However, the\ud results also indicated that, for some people, there are disadvantages associated\ud with relying on online social support.
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