Facing Technology-Faciliated Sexual Abuse

May 8, 2024

Survivors of technology-facilitated sexual abuse (TFSA) have experienced sexual abuse through nonconsensual image-sharing, deep fake pornography, imagery of sexual abuse and rape, including child sexual abuse materials (CSAM).

 

Technology Facilitated Sexual Abuse (TFSA) is also known as Digital Sexual Violence, and Image-Based Sexual Abuse. These are forms of power and control intended to expose, threaten, extort, oppress, commodify, advertise, and/or stalk survivors and their families. Images may be created, shared, traded, or sold without the survivor’s knowledge or ability to recall.

 

We are experiencing new and swiftly developing technologies such as AI misuse and “Deep Fake” that are easily accessible to create harmful images and videos. Because of its prevalence and exponential growth, we need the advocacy skills to assist survivors, whether or not they choose to disclose. It is important to note here that some of these experiences may fall under the legal category of sex trafficking, however the advocate’s role is to respond to the way survivors are sharing and naming their experiences and not categorize them for survivors.

One of the main features of TFSA is the lifelong, repetitive victimization that occurs whenever the image is shared. Survivors’ describe how their digital images ‘still out there floating around on the internet,’ is their everyday reality. Their survival strategy is learning to live with the constant possibility that known or unknown images will be recognized by someone they know, or pinged by law enforcement. Some describe the paralyzing fear they have in walking out the door because of the ever-present threat. Survivors and their families fear physical safety, as consumers of images try to find victims online or in person to continue to harm them.

They also experience victim blaming and shaming. Survivors of TFSA may have heard things like: “Well no one actually touched you” or “It’s not real, so it’s not you” or “You shouldn’t have sent anyone nudes in the first place. What did you think would happen?”

Survivors and secondary survivors* of any kind of sexual violence deserve the opportunity to process their experiences in safety and in confidence. Survivors deserve to get the resources they need for validation and healing. Equipped and well-funded rape crisis centers are crucial to be there for ALL survivors of sexual abuse.

Facing Technology-Faciliated Sexual Abuse: A Resource for Advocates is now available upon request. It includes information about terminology, secondary survivorship, survivor voices and resources, and different ways to advocate for survivors of TFSA. If you would like a copy of this resource, email [email protected].

*Secondary Survivor definition: Non-offending biological or chosen family and friends of someone who has experience rape or sexual abuse. Secondary Survivors deserve access to support, whose feelings and trauma deserve to be respected and voices heard.