A Cautionary Tale of Sexual Cybercrime: The Fight to Reclaim my Name
This is a cautionary tale of my experiences as a victim of sexual cybercrime. I’m filled with fear, hesitancy and an overwhelming sense of vulnerability at the prospect of writing this piece. I’ve written a little about my experiences before but never as candid as what is to follow. This time around, I’m fighting to reclaim my name and image, a name and image that has been stolen from me and has depicted me as something I’m not.
So here goes…
It all started a couple of years ago when I discovered through a simple Google Image Reverse search that dozens of photos from my social media were plastered all over pornographic sites: xhamster.com, sex.com, cumonprintedpics.com, motherless.com, titsintops.com you name it.
But let me make one thing clear, none of my photos are or were sexually explicit, they were just ordinary images of myself, that like everyone else my age, and everyone else in today’s internet culture, would post on social media.
Photo of me taken at age 17
It’s my understanding after years of dealing with this issue that the picture to the right is the one that started it all, or caught the attention of some pervert out there.
Somehow the perverts responsible had also managed to find out all of my details, which were also posted on these porn sites. My name, where I lived, what I studied- Some people on the thread were even trying to find out the name of my childhood best friend, so they could hack into my Facebook.
What’s more, is that on these pornographic sites were extremely explicit and highly offensive comments about myself that are to this day branded in my mind: ‘Cover her face, and I’d fuck her body,’ and ‘the amount of cum that has been spilt over her could fill a swimming pool.’ I was also called a ‘whale.’
The discovery was traumatising. I was frightened that a perpetrator would try and contact me in person. It was brutal. I immediately went to the police station, but this was before all this exposure to ‘revenge porn’ was dominating discussion in society. The police had told me that essentially there was nothing they could do, as there was nothing illegal going on, because once you upload a photo to Facebook anyone can take it and do anything they want with it, and that I had to contact the websites myself to take them down and just ensure that my social media settings were set to private.
I know now that what was happening to me is called ‘parasite porn’- the term used when ordinary images are taken from a person’s social media site and posted on threads in pornographic sites, usually alongside highly offensive, explicit and objectifying comments.
I also know that there are so many more young women who are victims of ‘parasite porn’ but haven’t a clue and all the while being preyed on by perverted men. The screenshot below is taken from just one website:
As you can see, some young women from Instagram are being preyed upon.
For these perverted men, they might argue that what they’re doing may be questionable but technically they aren’t breaking any laws or rules. Unfortunately, they would be right. Under Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, ‘When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you.’
Perpetrators of ‘parasite porn’ might not be breaking any rules or laws right now. But it’s not far-fetched to imagine that at some point in the future, society does witness the rise in the incidence of ‘parasite porn,’ and we ask ourselves: how are we allowing this? Is it really okay for others to do anything they want with an image they find online even if it means objectifying, sexualising and preying on the victim? Is this the risk young women have to take to have an online presence? How will we deal with this issue?
So while ‘parasite porn’ might not break any rules or laws, what it does do-is open up the floodgates to an even crazier world. The world of ‘morphed porn’- where ordinary images are manipulated and superimposed on naked bodies or edited to create a more sexualised effect, and posted on porn sites.
This is where my story takes a turn for the worst…
I soon learnt that my face was being photoshopped onto naked women and I was being depicted as an adult actress. Some solo, some with other porn stars and in one image I’m being ejaculated on by two men. Today, Photoshop is so advanced that it’s really not that difficult to morph an image and make it look real- and some of mine do, which has been the cause of so many sleepless nights worrying about my future employability.
From the initial discovery and throughout this process, I contacted all the relevant government agencies and even the Australian Federal Police. I explained my story numerous times but I was always transferred or directed to the next agency or simply not responded to.
So I just had to take matters into my own hands. I frantically went about getting the websites removed with varying degrees of success. Luckily most sites obliged my request for deletion. Until one particular site, the site containing the ‘morphed images.’ I had sternly requested this site be deleted, but the Webmaster refused to do so unless I sent him intimate images of me. When I of course refused and demanded the page be removed, he threatened to send the photos to my university and my father. I knew better than to give into blackmail, so I held strong, but the site wasn’t deleted until much later.
Yet again, I know there are so many girls who literally don’t know about this- it’s a terrifying prospect. The screenshot to the right is from just one site.
Now, some of you may be thinking that I should’ve just had my photo settings on private, or that I shouldn’t upload ‘risqué’ photos, or that I should just quit social media forever.
I thought the same for a long time, I was filled with shame, embarrassment and disappointment. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t be ashamed at all. I haven’t done anything wrong. Like many others, I’m just another victim of sexual cybercrime.
In fact, now I would say that firstly, no matter how careful you are with your privacy settings on social media. There are always ways around it. These perverts can and do look through photos in the club taken by the club photographer, events pages and even your friends’ accounts
Secondly, blaming the victim is the easy option, especially in this culture of victim-blaming. Where victims of ‘revenge porn’ are asked why they sent nude photos in the first place, instead of why the boys posted them online. We should be asking why these perverted men aren’t being held to account for their actions and for the harm they have not only caused me, but all the other victims subjected to sexual cybercrime.
Lastly, while it may be common knowledge that the internet is a dangerous place and we should all be careful about what we put on the internet, NOBODY expects that when they upload a photo onto Instagram or Facebook, that they’ll end up being depicted as adult actress, with their name and image smeared and misrepresented in a sexually explicit and highly offensive way.
Today, the media is dominated by news of ‘revenge porn.’ We know about the harms of revenge porn to victims that they are more vulnerable to suicide, depression, emotional distress, humiliation and the list goes on.What we don’t hear are the issues of ‘parasite porn’ and ‘morphed porn,’ maybe because most of the victims don’t know they’re victims, which is terrifying enough. But an even more terrifying prospect is that you don’t need to have taken or sent a sexually explicit photo to be at risk.
If you discover that you’re also a victim of ‘parasite porn’ or ‘morphed porn,’ there’s hope still. Now, Google allows you to request the removal of certain photos and videos posted without consent from Google Search Results.
Befitting it seems, how relevant the words of Brené Brown are, the world’s most renowned researcher in shame and vulnerability:
When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.
So here I am, reclaiming my name.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
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