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This isn't a 'scandal'. The nude AFL players might be victims of a cruel crime.

News broke today that four current and former AFL players took naked selfies and sexually explicit videos and sent them to two women.

A national magazine, Woman’s Day, published those images (with the genitals blacked-out) in their print version and also online.

There’s some additional titillation around the release of the images because two of those players may have been in long-term relationships when the selfies were sent. “What will his girlfriend think?” A second online publication has asked.

While sending images of this kind is against AFL players’ Code of Conduct, the players’ football club, Collingwood FC, has given a statement on Twitter saying they won’t be taking any further actions. Collingwood President Eddie McGuire told a media conference that the players were “idiots” that “somebody’s sucked in”.

According to Woman’s Day, one of the women who received the content via social media said that she met the player in question in a bar. One of the women claims a player wrote in his messages to her “I want it now”, and “Wanna be bad?”.

The players may have been “idiots”, and even cheaters. Maybe they are “bad role models”. Sure, this could be another example of footy players behaving poorly.

But that’s not the most important thing.

These men might also be victims of crime.

In Victoria, it is a criminal offence to maliciously distribute intimate images without the person’s consent. Offenders can face up to two years’ imprisonment for distributing these intimate images (and up to a year for threatening to distribute images).

That law is designed to prevent “revenge porn”, where the recipient of an intimate image sends it to other people (or posts them to a website) in order to shame the person in the photo.

Nine out of ten times it’s women who are victims of this crime. Last year, in one attack, 500 women from Adelaide had nude images stolen and posted to a “revenge porn” website in the United States.

Stealing, distributing and viewing these stolen images is a form of sexual assault, and the damage done to victims is devastating. The images are often distributed or uploaded by an angry ex-partner, an extortionist, an opportunistic hacker or rapist, along with identifying information about the victim.

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In this case, the photos are of men. Famous men. Men that people read about and care about.

The AFL players appear to have taken these intimate images themselves. They were sent to women whom they had met previously. We don’t know whether the images were unsolicited or why the men sent them. We don’t know how the women felt about receiving them, although pictures of the texts that appear in Woman’s Day seem to show one of the women saying to Dane Swan “How bad do you want it if we meet up tonight” and “Just ditch your girl and come over tonight after I finish work” (both texts ended with a winking eye emoji). That doesn’t mean that she consented to receiving explicit images, but it does convey some kind of intimacy between the pair.

But what we do know is that the recipients of those images have then taken the pictures and videos to a media outlet without the players’ consent.

In the same way that it would be wrong to blame a woman who had her image stolen and shared on a revenge porn website, we need to think about how we are treating these players based on the information we have.

Yes, they sent nude pictures and videos to women. Thousands of people in Australia do that with consent every day.

The risks for these men may seem bigger because they are famous, but any person who sends a naked image to another person runs a risk that they could be hacked or taken advantage of. The effect of having your private images shared is devastating — whether you’re famous or not.

We don’t know enough about this case to know what motivated the women to share the images without the players’ consent. Was it malicious? We don’t know. Collingwood Football Club seems to think that the women were paid for the images, but we don’t know that for sure either.

What we do know is that both men and women can be victims of revenge porn. They can have their photos published without their consent.

And we know that is a crime.

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