Digital poly-victimization: The increasing importance of online crime and harassment to the burden of victimization.

Academic Article


  • Many forms of victimization, including bullying and property crime, are increasingly moving online, but most studies of poly-victimization still primarily focus on in-person crime and violence. Few studies have examined the importance of incorporating technology-based victimizations for assessing the true burden of violence. The purpose of this study is to explore whether digital poly-victimization contributes to post-traumatic stress and anxiety/dysphoria symptoms after controlling for in-person poly-victimization. Given that technology use and technology-based victimization are changing rapidly, a mixed methods approach was adopted. In the first two phases, focus groups and cognitive interviews (89 total participants) were used to identify the range of digital victimization and develop the Digital Poly-Victimization Scale. In the third phase, the new measure was included in a community survey (n = 478, 57.5% female; 62.6% earning under $50,000 per year) in a rural Southern region, along with measures of in-person poly-victimization, posttraumatic stress and anxiety/dysphoria symptoms, and other outcomes and personal characteristics. A comprehensive measure of digital poly-victimization indicated that almost 3 in 4 participants (72.3%) had experienced at least one form of digital victimization. The results indicated that digital poly-victimization contributed unique variance to post-traumatic stress and anxiety/dysphoria symptoms (p < .001), health-related quality of life (p < .01), and subjective and family well-being (both p < .001), even after controlling for demographics and in-person poly-victimization. Digital victimization often presents fewer risks to perpetrators and can be expected to represent an increasing share of the societal burden of violence. Future research on poly-victimization should pay more attention to the role of digital victimization.
  • Authors

  • Hamby, Sherry
  • Blount, Zach
  • Smith, Alli
  • Jones, Lisa
  • Mitchell, Kimberly
  • Taylor, Elizabeth
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • May 2018
  • Published In


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Bullying
  • Child
  • Crime Victims
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poly-victimization
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
  • United States
  • online crime
  • trauma symptoms
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 29547075
  • Start Page

  • 382
  • End Page

  • 398
  • Volume

  • 19
  • Issue

  • 3