An FIU social psychologist is studying cyber sexual violence among adults in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has caused a massive shift to web-based communication, leaving Americans vulnerable to unfamiliar, untested and insecure communication technologies.
Asia Eaton, an FIU associate professor in the Psychology Department, is looking at whether this shift may have facilitated an increase in cyber sexual violence during the pandemic — and its impact on the wellbeing of adults from different backgrounds.
Eaton will study the prevalence, risk factors and consequences of sexual cyber abuse during the pandemic including nonconsensual pornography, sexual extortion, recorded sexual assault, cyber stalking and cyber dating violence.
Eaton’s research received rapid response grant funding from the National Science Foundation and is conducted in collaboration with the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).
“This interdisciplinary, translational research draws from psychology, law and information technology to better understand cyber sexual violence and inform practice and policy for legislature, tech companies, law enforcement and social service providers,” Eaton said. “I’m also proud that it represents an equitable partnership between FIU and CCRI.”
In April, there were several reports of substantial increases in phishing and other cyberattacks. Phishing can give hackers access to usernames, passwords, financial information. It can also provide access to intimate images — giving perpetrators easy opportunities to commit sexual extortion and share nonconsensual pornography.
According to Eaton, hackers take advantage of new users’ lack of familiarity with privacy and security settings in various platforms, including videoconferencing applications, popular gaming sites and adult entertainment sites. The cyberattacks have become more targeted and sophisticated since ..