Date of Award

12-15-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Laura F. Salazar

Second Advisor

Dr. Daniel Whitaker

Third Advisor

Dr. Cassandra White

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Traditional forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) such as physical and psychological violence have been linked to various negative health consequences such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and chronic diseases. Among women, IPV has resulted in significant financial losses in the United States. However, an area of IPV that has not seen much attention in the public health field is cyber violence among intimate partners. The growing prominence of mobile devices, social media, and other communication technology, has opened up new avenues for the perpetration of IPV. No longer are perpetrators’ physical presence necessary. Cyber violence can be committed at any hour of the day.

AIM: The purpose of this study is to explore and better understand cyber violence in the context of intimate partner relationships. The objectives were: (1) to identify types of cyber violence tactics used by perpetrators, (2) to understand victims’ perception of the cyber violence, (3) to identify help-seeking behavior, (4) to examine the effects of cyber violence on victims’ professional lives, social lives and mental health, and (5) to identify the occurrence of victims reciprocating cyber violence towards an intimate partner.

METHODS: Seven semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted among women who had experienced cyber violence from an intimate partner. Participants were recruited through social media (Facebook and Twitter), flyers posted around Georgia State University campus, flyers passed out at local businesses, and emails. Informed consent was obtained prior to each interview. Interviews were coded using the Nvivo qualitative data analysis software. Stark’s theory of Coercive Control and Johnson’s typology of Intimate Partner Violence were used to interpret and understand acts of cyber violence.

RESULTS: The abusive tactics used by the partners of participants in this study varied in method, onset, and intention. Although typically used to understand traditional forms of IPV, acts of cyber violence can be categorized using Johnson’s typology of IPV. Some acts of cyber violence were coupled with controlling behavior while other acts of violence were situational or separation-instigated violence. Victims in this study also reported perpetrating cyber violence against an intimate partner. However, the acts of violence committed by the women in this study lacked elements of coercive control. All participants held negative perceptions of the cyber violence they experienced, but only two sought professional assistance specifically for the cyber abuse. Other participants reached out to friends and family. One participant who reached out to police received no help from law enforcement. Last, participants expressed feelings of social isolation, depression, stress, and anxiety as a result of technology-facilitated abuse.

CONCLUSION: The findings illustrate a need to improve and encourage help-seeking behavior among victims of cyber violence. Many states have laws concerning cyber harassment and “revenge porn,” however efforts to educate the public on the various avenues to access assistance is needed. Also, steps should be taken to ensure crimes related to cyber violence are taken seriously by law enforcement and properly addressed. The current research reveals that victims of cyber IPV are potentially at risk for poor health outcomes. Future research should examine whether cyber IPV is uniquely associated with various mental disorders and chronic diseases. If cyber IPV is linked to various adverse health consequences then victims are at risk for poor health outcomes even when they physically separate themselves from their partner.

Available for download on Thursday, December 06, 2018

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