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Who is worthy of help? Constructing the stereotype of the “ideal victim” of child sexual abuse

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posted on 2021-04-08, 20:51 authored by Simone EelmaaSimone Eelmaa, Maria Murumaa-Mengel

The stereotype of the “ideal victim” often determines who is considered deserving of victim status, especially in sexual violence cases. In this Chapter, we explore how is the so-called “ideal victim” stereotype constructed and what are the elements necessary for the perception of “ideal victimhood.” We use empirical data from an unmoderated anonymous Estonian online forum that hosts various topic threads from children and young people, including posts about personally experienced sexual violence (N=28) and replies to these posts (N=361). The data was analyzed by combining a discursive psychological approach with qualitative thematic analysis. Results reveal and illustrate how the stereotype is constructed from various elements and characteristics of social scripts, perceived gender roles, and misconceptions about sexuality. We unveil how these social constructions affect responses and attitudes towards sexual abuse victims to provide input for designing prevention efforts that support disclosure and help-seeking.

This Chapter will soon appear in the book Child Sexual Abuse and the Media (publisher: NOMOS).


Declaration of conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest

Corresponding author email

Lead author country

  • Estonia

Lead author job role

  • PhD Student

Lead author institution

University of Tartu

Human Participants

  • No


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