Experiences of a digital health intervention for young people exposed to technology assisted sexual abuse: A qualitative study

Ethel Quayle, Amanda Larkin, Matthias Schwannauer, Filippo Varese, Kim Cartwright, Prathiba Chitsabesan, Victoria Green, Gillian Radford, Cathy Richards, Sara Shafi, Pauline Whelan, Cindy Chang, William Hewins, Alice Newton-Braithwaite, Erica Niebauer, Marina Sandys, Jennifer Ward, Sandra Bucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: There is growing evidence that Technology Assisted Sexual Abuse (TASA) represents a serious problem for large numbers of children. To date, there are very few evidence-based interventions available to young people (YP) after they have been exposed to this form of abuse, and access to support services remains a challenge. Digital tools such as smartphones have the potential to increase access to mental health support and may provide an opportunity for YP to both manage their distress and reduce the possibility of further victimization. The current study explores the acceptability of a digital health intervention (DHI; the i-Minds app) which is a theory-driven, co-produced, mentalization-based DHI designed for YP aged 12-18 who have experienced TASA.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 YP recruited through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre and an e-therapy provider who had access to the i-Minds app as part of a feasibility clinical trial. Interviews focused on the acceptability and usability of i-Minds and were coded to themes based on the Acceptability of Healthcare Interventions framework.

RESULTS: All participants found the i-Minds app acceptable. Many aspects of the app were seen as enjoyable and useful in helping YP understand their abuse, manage feelings, and change behavior. The app was seen as usable and easy to navigate, but for some participants the level of text was problematic and aspects of the content was, at times, emotionally distressing at times.

CONCLUSIONS: The i-Minds app is useful in the management of TASA and helping change some risk-related vulnerabilities. The app was designed, developed and evaluated with YP who had experienced TASA and this may account for the high levels of acceptability seen.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial was registered on the ISRCTN registry on the 12/04/2022 as i-Minds: a digital intervention for young people exposed to online sexual abuse (ISRCTN43130832).

Original languageEnglish
Article number237
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • child and adolescent psychiatric care
  • coproduction
  • digital health intervention
  • online child sexual abuse
  • qualitative


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