Disclosure, Twitter, and the Power of #WhyIDidntReport

Applying French and Raven’s Bases of Power to Tweets from Victims of Sexual Violence


  • Isabel Fay Longwood University
  • Kris Paal Longwood University
  • Alec R Hosterman Longwood University
  • Karen Bleier Park University
  • Naomi R. Johnson Longwood University
  • Virginia Kinman Longwood University
  • Christine Reindfleisch Longwood University


sexual violence, Twitter, French and Raven, power bases, digital activism


Shortly following the #MeToo movement, victims of sexual violence used the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport on various social media platforms to chronicle why they had not disclosed their own experiences with sexual violence. To better understand why some victims of sexual violence choose to keep silent about their experiences, this project analyzed 2,370 public narratives on Twitter that included the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. Utilizing French and Raven’s (1959) five bases of social power (legitimate, expert, referent, coercive, and reward) as a theoretical framework, this research employed a modified grounded theory approach in order to determine which types of power are expressed as reasons victims did not disclose their sexual assault. The researchers found that four of the five power bases (legitimate, expert, referent, and coercive) were emergent reasons, while reward power was not prevalent. This study provides foundations for expanding the utility of social media platforms in studying social media narratives, application of French and Raven’s (1959) social power theory, and a deeper understanding of the reasons why victims of sexual violence do not disclose or report as those decisions pertain to perceptions of power.

Keywords: sexual violence, Twitter, French and Raven, power bases, digital activism

Author Biographies

Isabel Fay, Longwood University

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Kris Paal, Longwood University

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Alec R Hosterman, Longwood University

Associate Professor, Communication Studies

Naomi R. Johnson, Longwood University

Professor, Communication Studies


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