YSU professor: Social media beneficial for sexual assault victims

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – In light of the sexual assault allegations that continue to come out of Hollywood, a Youngstown State professor spoke of the positive environment social media provides to victims.

Dr. Shelley Blundell is a journalism professor and media expert at YSU. She says social media affords victims security and a community with which they can share their stories.

Blundell says social media hashtags — like #MeToo — free victims from the burden of their own assault. It gives them an opportunity to share experiences they had bottled up inside — for hours, days or even decades.

“Even though people have public presences and public personas — they use their full name on Facebook, they have profile images, etc. — they’re still somewhat disconnected from humanity,” Blundell said.

Plus, it allows victims to confront their abusers from a distance.

“You are also being able to talk through your experience in an environment where you feel safe and you feel protected,” Blundell said.

Is social media increasing numbers of people seeking support locally?

Compass Family Services says no. The last support group they held, no one showed up.

Blundell says some victims prefer the anonymity of a computer screen.

“These are people who may not seek out public resources,” she said. “But there’s enough research to indicate that social media as a community-building source can actually be just as therapeutic and just as helpful.”

Dr. Blundell says she hopes the more public cases and stories come out, the more people gain an understanding of how pervasive sexual assault is in society and work towards ending it.