Sexual assault is a pandemic issue that affects millions worldwide. In the U.S. it is estimated that one in five women and one in 38 men will be victims of rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime (Smith et al., 2018). Sexual assault has several significant long-term effects, including negatively impacting survivors’ psychological, emotional, physical, and interpersonal well-being. After a trauma from sexual victimization, survivors face the difficult process of making sense out of what happened, what to do about it, and whether to disclose the experience to others. Reporting, whether formally or informally, can be extremely difficult for survivors, and may even deepen the pain of the experience depending on the response to such a disclosure. However, studies indicate that help-seeking and disclosure are beneficial for the physical and emotional health of the survivor. In this era of social media, many survivors turn to supportive online communities to disclose and/or seek help following their sexual trauma. This study focused on online discussions of sexual violence as shared on reddit, a social media website centered on member discussion and content sharing. The purpose of this study was to examine subreddit forums on rape and sexual assault to identify what issues were shared and what questions were asked by sexual assault survivors following their victimization. Specifically, the research questions included, 1) What types of issues are survivors choosing to share online after assault? And 2) What questions do they ask, and support do they seek from the online community after an assault? Around 300 posts on rape and sexual assault subreddits were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014). Results suggest that reddit users posted to determine whether their experiences were abusive, to seek help, and to share their stories and seek a supportive witness from the online community.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life



Date Submitted


Document Type





sexual assault, rape, online self-disclosure, online reporting, online help-seeking, reddit