Investigating the Psychological Impact of Cyber-Sexual Harassment

J Interpers Violence. 2024 Feb 15:8862605241231615. doi: 10.1177/08862605241231615. Online ahead of print.


The impact of cyber sexual harassment (CSH) on adult women and the factors influencing this impact are largely under-researched. Communication technologies provide novel means for people to threaten, communicate, and harass others. Victims of in-person sexual harassment (ISH) can experience negative symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, and negative body image. The current study explored the psychological impact of CSH in adult women to determine whether CSH predicts psychological difficulties. Adult female participants (N = 136) took part in an online, cross-sectional study; 44% of participants had experienced CSH and this was associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, trauma, and body image dissatisfaction. Younger victims, those who had been in a relationship for a shorter amount of time, those who had previously experienced of ISH, and those who had a higher number of social media followers were more likely to have experienced CSH. When controlling for demographic variables, CSH predicted anxiety, depression, trauma, and body image dissatisfaction; however, experience of ISH impacted upon body-image dissatisfaction over and above CSH. There is a need to routinely ask individuals accessing mental health services whether online interactions cause harm. Future research should examine these phenomena in more ethnically diverse samples.

Keywords: anxiety; body image; cyber-sexual; depression; harassment; trauma.