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‘Whisper networks’ thrive when women lose faith in formal systems of reporting sexual harassment

Posted Jan 10, 2023

Whisper networks – informal channels that women use to warn others about sexual harassmentabuse or assault – take root because formal reporting systems can re-traumatize people who have been harmed. That’s what Iowa State University
Postdoctoral Scholar of Communication Carrie Ann Johnson found while conducting research on this topic for her dissertation.

These networks form when women are determined to protect each other once they learn of misconduct, because their experience has shown them that formally reporting incidents is slow and generally doesn’t work.

Johnson conducted 20 in-depth and anonymous interviews with women who used whisper networks. She located them directly or indirectly through social media using snowball sampling, a technique that’s useful for finding people who are willing to anonymously share detailed information with researchers.

Read Johnson’s full article in The Conversation here.