A few weeks ago I had a conversation about misogyny with my cousin. She had written an article about Eddie McGuire that had gone viral and we were both unpacking his words and their impact on society. Both of us have daughters and up until that time, to our knowledge, they had yet to be confronted by any sort of objectification because of their gender.
As a woman I was appalled by Eddie McGuire’s comments, but still I was a spectator looking in from the outside. However, two weeks later I found myself in the eye of the storm.
Some young men from the local boys school, Brighton Grammar, photographed my daughter in her school uniform and uploaded her photo to an Instagram account. The apparent purpose of the account was simple; to humiliate young girls as the followers of the account were encouraged to vote for “Young Slut of the Year”.
The photo was brought to our attention by a brave young girl who had become outraged that grade six students at her school had been targeted. My daughter didn’t even know what the word slut meant, let alone any of the other vulgarity that accompanied her photo. When confronted with what was posted about my daughter, my body automatically jolted into fight or flight mode, a biochemical response to an urgent need to protect her. I gained access to the site, took screen shots of the photos and those involved. I sent urgent emails to the school principals and wrote a Facebook post to my community alerting them without naming the school or those involved.
And then I waited.
Despite the hundreds of phone calls and messages that arrived as a result of my Facebook post, I knew this was a fight I would ultimately face alone and I needed to be prepared. I knew if I reported it to the police I'd be both celebrated and vilified for doing so. I knew my children’s lives would be impacted and I needed to make sure we were ready for the onslaught.
At 5pm the next day, with the support of my family and daughters, I made a statement to the police.
For the following few days I barely left the house, with the exception of driving my daughter to and from school. I was an emotional wreck as my mind started to dance around the “what ifs”. What if that photo hadn't been brought to my attention? What if there was a pedophile on the site that could now identify my daughters’ school and her year level?
I had spent her entire life protecting her, and now she had been made vulnerable as she innocently walked to meet me after school.
Something happens to a person when their life has been shattered; when their foundation has been ripped from beneath them forcing them to fall to the ground. We start to mend. We put each piece back, bit by bit, and while we are never the same again we are stronger, bigger and wiser. After three days of tears, anger and confusion I emerged with more determination and strength than I knew was possible. Through the cracks shone a light from inside me that was blinding to those who attempted to diminish the severity of this wrong or ridicule my response to it.