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Introduction: Forty-eight US states and 11 countries have enacted legislation criminalizing
the act of revenge porn, or cyber sexual abuse. This represents a shift in recognition of
the effects of cyber sexual abuse, as survivors continue to face societal norms of victim-
blaming. By capturing stories of individuals who consider having overcome their experience
of cyber sexual abuse, we aim to understand the process of recovery. Methods: We conducted
qualitative interviews with 15 adults who indicated, through a digital eligibility form, that they
had “overcome” their incident of cyber sexual abuse. Utilizing a grounded theory approach, the
authors coded the data, met to determine consistency, and arrived at consensus on the themes. Results: Analysis identified six themes, with the fourth theme characterizing the temporal
relationship between the first three and the last two: (1) Survivors exhibited externalized and
internalized stigma; (2) Survivors experienced varying levels of professionalism and support
from law enforcement and legal professionals; (3) A substantial burden on the survivor to
educate and explain about cyber sexual abuse; (4) The “Fuck it!” point: The point where there
is a noticeable shift in survivors’ attitudes and behaviors in their stories; (5) All survivors were
forced to become their own advocate, many an advocate for others; (6) Survivors embraced an
acceptance of a “new normal." Discussion: Future research needs to focus on how changing
structured protocols and trainings can contribute to shifting the burden of blame in cases of
cyber sexual abuse from the survivor to the abuser.

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Counseling Commons



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