On Thursday night, after reports and rumours of a “sex tape” had been festering above and below ground, former AFL player Dane Swan released a statement via Channel 9’s The Footy Show.
Yes, he said, there was a video. No, he said, it wasn’t by definition “a sex tape”. And no – and far more importantly – he did not consent for the video to be distributed.
“I have recently become aware of a video of me being published and circulated on the internet,” he said. “Contrary to some media reports, the video is not a ‘sex tape’.
“Although the video was taken a long time ago, it has been posted and distributed only recently. It was taken and distributed without my consent. The distribution is a gross breach of my privacy.
“As it is illegal to distribute such material online without consent I have reported the matter to the police who are investigating the distribution.
“As the matter is under investigation, I have no further comment at this time and I ask that my privacy be respected.”
In a statement to the Herald Sun, Victoria Police confirmed they were investigating the nature of how the video was leaked.
“Prahran police are investigating after a video was distributed electronically and online,” the statement said.
“The video was posted without consent. As the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Soon after 34-year-old Swan made his statement, his agent Liam Pickering released his own blistering attack, making the suggestion that the former sports star had been treated differently because he was a male.
“In other incidents often with a female victim the media has been keen to protect the victim’s identity,” Pickering said.
“Although Dane understands he is a public figure, he is the victim in this case and is no less deserving of that protection.
“There is a double standard where the media feels free to name him and engage in a feeding frenzy of commentary and speculation about the circumstances, rather than allow him the privacy that any victim in such circumstances is entitled to have.”
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Pickering is largely correct: regardless of gender, Dane Swan, in these vicious and malicious circumstances, is the victim. Any other conversations that occur around that are white noise. They are unhelpful, irrelevant and dodge one of the greatest issues – image-based online abuse – facing so many people in our increasingly digital realm.
It’s unfortunate – desperately so – that his name has been made public, but the fact it has been made public has little to do with gender and far more to do with the perils of having a famous AFL face in a country that adores sport. In truth, all you have to do is look to the #TheFappening of 2014, where thousands of nude photos were leaked of famous women such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, to understand that a famous face, of man or woman, will be generally named in these circumstances.
But now, regardless of the fact his name has entered the fray, and despite murmurings of the state of his long-term relationship with partner Taylor Wilson, it’s important we get the next few steps right.
As the police investigation continues into the source of leak, it’s important Swan is treated exactly has he pleads: as a victim who did not consent to this “gross” breach of privacy.
Because if the former AFL star now isn’t given both the sympathy, respect and privacy he deserves, it speaks volumes for our inability to see cases like this – the illegal distribution of private images – as anything but the repugnant acts they are.
In fact, our ability to treat any case like Swan’s seriously in the future hinges on how we act now. So let’s be clear: He is a victim. Nothing more, nothing less.