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Some sex abuse survivors seek support anonymously online

Posted in Sexual Abuse on Thursday, February 25, 2016.

The ability to interact with others while remaining anonymous is important in a number of settings. Those seeking help with alcohol or drug addiction recognized the importance of anonymity decades ago. Many other support groups have since adopted similar policies.

We are currently living in an age when anonymity can be hard to ensure. But even now, many survivors of sexual abuse are reaching out for help online because they don’t want to or can’t tell their loved ones what happened. According to a recent study, male victims seem especially likely to ask for support online while trying to protect their own anonymity.

A study from Drexel University analyzed postings on the website Reddit, including three forums (subreddits) related to sex abuse. While most users could choose to be anonymous by creating a profile/account that doesn’t reveal personal information, some forum users took extra steps to safeguard anonymity. These Reddit users relied on “throwaway” accounts, which are accounts created and used only once. If they ever decided to post again on the same forum, many would do so under a new account.

While it was not possible to determine gender in all cases, researchers did discover that male users were more likely to rely on throwaway accounts. This is consistent with what mental health professionals have known for years: that male sex-abuse victims are especially hesitant to report the abuse or seek help and support. The study’s authors note that “a variety of masculinity ideologies, norms, and gender roles play a part in discouraging men’s help-seeking behavior.”

If you are a sex abuse survivor (male or female) and you have been unable to reach out for help and support, you may find that anonymous internet forums are an emotionally safe place to begin your healing journey. But in time, please consider seeking dedicated and continued help from therapists, support groups, (trusted) friends and (trusted) family.

Moreover, victims of sexual abuse who want to pursue legal action against their abusers should know that it may be possible to remain publicly anonymous. Our law firm is dedicated to helping crime victims while protecting their privacy and dignity.