RAPID: SaTC COVID-19 and sexual cyberviolence: Impact on general users and vulnerable populations Grant

RAPID: SaTC COVID-19 and sexual cyberviolence: Impact on general users and vulnerable populations .


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has forced diverse Americans to rely on the internet for work, study, and socializing. Already, popular gaming platforms, adult entertainment sites, and video conferencing applications have reported increases in use since the start of the pandemic. In conjunction with the increased use of online technologies, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released an advisory in April 2020 warning internet users of a significant increase in sexual extortion schemes specifically tied to COVID-19. In this project, Florida International University (FIU) and Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) are partnering to understand and address increases in various forms of cyber sexual violence since the start of the pandemic. Specifically, this project will use quantitative and qualitative research to determine the ways in which the shift to online communication during the pandemic may have facilitated an increase in cyber sexual violence, and how that increase relates to the well-being of U.S. adults from different backgrounds. It is anticipated that this research will enhance the welfare and safety of the general public, especially for vulnerable and marginalized populations. The research will also promote the progress of technological innovation and design as relates to user privacy and user safety. The research defines cyber sexual violence to include nonconsensual pornography (also known as “revenge porn”), sexual extortion, recorded sexual assault, doxing, deepfakes, cyber-harassment, cyber-stalking, and cyber dating violence. The first objective of this research is (1) to advance scientific knowledge on the prevalence of cyber sexual abuse victimization, the risk factors for victimization, and the consequences of victimization among diverse U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve this objective the project will conduct a survey using a nationally-representative sample, oversampling from vulnerable populations including women, racial and ethnic minorities, sexual orientation minorities, and young adults. Survey participants will be asked to complete measures of risk factors for cyber sexual abuse victimization (e.g., ICT usage, gender role beliefs, level of social support), measures of cyber sexual abuse victimization during the pandemic (e.g., cyber-harassment and cyber dating violence), and measures expected to function as consequences of cyber sexual abuse victimization (e.g., indicators of psychological, health, economic, and legal outcomes). The second objective of this research (2) is to create practical recommendations for ICT users, service providers, and companies to prevent cyber sexual violence and reduce its harms. To achieve this, interviews with a diverse sample of 40 men and 40 women who have been victims of cyber sexual abuse during the pandemic will be conducted, as well as interviews with legal and technological experts. The research findings will inform public and private sector guidelines, including digital safety strategies for users; best-practice policy suggestions for legislatures; and practical guidance for law enforcement and social service providers. The recommendations are intended to serve as an applied and meaningful contribution to society, particularly in future instances where residents are required to perform a high level of daily activities using information and communications technologies.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • October 1, 2020 - September 30, 2022

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 2035686