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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Twitter Users Spreading Sexual Violence Prevention Strategies

In the wake of #MeToo, the hashtag #HowIWillChange asked men to come forward on Twitter to discuss ways in which they would change their own behavior to prevent sexual violence and mitigate harm for victims.

“#HowIWillChange: Acknowledge that if all women I know have been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted, then I know perpetrators. Or am one,” tweeted Australian journalist Mr. Benjamin Law, who started the hashtag since used by thousands of other Twitter users.

But how helpful has the hashtag actually been? According to a new study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers, Twitter users have proposed many potentially effective sexual violence prevention strategies, although there are also gaps in the strategies being discussed, and even some misinformation and myths being perpetuated.

The study was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“Right now, this is how people are engaging in sexual violence prevention, through these online movements,” says lead author Ms. Alyssa Harlow, a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). “We can learn a lot by analyzing how people interact with these hashtags. It can be very revealing, and can help us see where there may be opportunities for more targeted interventions.”

Ms. Harlow and her colleagues used a sample of 1 percent of all tweets with the hashtag #HowIWillChange, then eliminated all retweets, non-English language tweets, spam tweets, and tweets that included pictures, video, or links to news articles. They also eliminated tweets that did not mention specific actions. They then analyzed the remaining 1,493 tweets.

Read more about this study.