opinion

'The sickening moment I found my girlfriends on the "Aussie Sluts" forum.'

It starts with a status on Facebook. A girl on my timeline shares a friend’s post: she has found an online catalogue of Australian girls, from Mackay to Melbourne on a forum sharing their naked photos, with faces and names, sorted into areas and schools.

The photos are meticulously organized and planned in neat folders. I am scared. Not for myself – but for every girl I know.

These photos exist on an anonymous server: a thread, which makes it more threatening. If it were on Facebook, like the ‘Hotties of Melbourne’ debacle earlier this year or Instagram, which housed Brighton Grammar’s latest indiscretion, it would be easier to contact the website, and get the images taken down – and the publicity and furore would rock Melbourne, for the umpteenth time in 2016.

The 'Aussie Sluts' folders. (Screenshot supplied)

However, these photos are intangible: the veil of anonymity hides the boys taking part and the website allowing these actions to occur.

Girls on my timeline are panicked – “How do I see if I’m on there?” “How do I know if there are photos of me?” “How do you find yourself on here?”

I click on the link and feel cold horror. There are sections for schools, for workplaces, for ages and for postcodes.

There are gleeful boys requesting photos of girls, using last names and Snapchat handles and describing the obtaining of a nude photo as a “win.”

As if it is a victory, to display a private photo of a woman who trusted you, with unknown, anonymous people on the Internet.

I see photos of girls I knew in high school, of girls who I met at work and in Grade One and through netball and university. I feel sick as I see the comments below photos of my friend’s sisters and people I follow on Instagram.

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I feel scared when I see boys asking for girls – demanding other boys to hand over photos as if they are entitled to them.

The folders vary from broad expanses, such as the Sunshine Coast, to eerily specific places, such as Bacchus Marsh and Melton, and even targets schools – from ‘Saint Caths Singleton’ to ‘Rutherford High School.’

 The folders vary from broad expanses. (Screenshot supplied)

That’s right, high schools – which obviously points to the fact that some of these girls are underage. One of the many disturbing aspects of this page is the willful disclosure of identity: in many cases, boys are asking: “any idea who she is?” “Does anyone have any wins of this girl?” “Anyone have anything new on Perth?”

They trade – sharing photos of particular girls in exchange for other, specific requests. They direct ‘newy’ photos to a ‘Vola’ file, where the evidence will disappear after two days. They share, conspire and sometimes guess the names, ages, and whereabouts of the women whose bodies they are viewing online.

The women who sent photos to their partner, or their friends, or whoever they wanted to, and who were stripped of their choice to only show who they wanted: now, they are splashed across an explicit and vile gathering of misogynistic creeps.

The girls who are on the site, through SnapChat screenshots, personal photos, and images hacked from their devices, doubtless feel humiliated and scared. Their privacy and trust has been violated, perhaps irreparably.

What would you do if you found a friend on the "Aussie Sluts" forum?

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