Understanding Youth Experiences of Image-based Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Young people in the UK are facing a crisis in online sexual harassment and abuse. It is crucial that researchers, activists and policy makers work together to implement responses to this growing area of concern. The School of Arts’ own Dr Kaitlyn Regehr is making headway in understanding the experiences of young people navigating sexual violence online.

Since 2019, Dr Regehr, alongside her colleague Professor Jessica Ringrose (UCL) has been researching the online dimensions of sexual violence amongst young people. This work has fed into the production of a new report which directly addresses these challenges. The report, which uses a unique arts-based research methodology, draws on the experiences of over 400 people aged 12-18 in the UK and seeks to illustrate young peoples’ experiences of image-based sexual harassment on online channels such as Instagram and Snapchat.

As well as offering advice and strategies for combatting online sexual violence, one of the aims of the report is to help parents to understand how their children perceive the online world. “As adults, we tend to think of the online and offline world as a binary”, says Dr Regehr. “But young people today see these as part of the same landscape. So it is important that we develop proactive education strategies which take this into account.”

The report was launched at UCL’s Institute of Education during a special event, covered by The Times and The Guardian amongst others. The launch event’s centrepiece was a panel discussion featuring experts in the field, activists, politicians and policy makers, who will reflect on the report’s findings.

Dr Kaitlyn Regehr is Senior Lecturer in Media and Digital Culture at the University of Kent, whose research uses socially engaged methodologies to explore the intersections of media, culture and gender studies. She has produced popular documentaries on her research, including a recent BBC Three programme focused on online Alt-Right and Incel communities. She is currently teaching modules on the relationship between social media and politics, economics, personal expression and art.