"Police are still clueless when it comes to dealing with cyber crime."

Last Tuesday, a young Australian woman walked into her local police station to report a crime.

She hadn’t slept, eaten, “couldn’t think”, and the officer she spoke to “laughed” at her.

Megan is one of thousands of Australian women and girls whose intimate photos were stolen and uploaded to a forum for men to gawk over and swap between one another like trading cards.

The site has targeted thousands of Australian women. 

She was 16 when she took the picture. She shared it with one person and now, potentially, thousands more have seen it.

All without her consent.

Yes, perhaps her trust was misplaced. And yes, perhaps the advent of the internet means 10 years ago this wouldn't have happened.

But the reality is, the response Megan received when she asked for help was nothing new, nor was it surprising.

This is her account of talking to a police man at a station in the Northern Rivers region of NSW:

"The guy I spoke to, an older guy, just laughed pretty much," she told Triple J's current affairs program Hack last night.

"He said that's what I get for taking them. He said, 'Do you know who you sent it to?"

"I said, 'No it was four years ago I don't remember.'"

"And he said, 'Well do you send nude photos to everyone do you?'"

"And I just walked out crying."

Megan has since received an apology - sort of - from the acting commander in the area, who conceded the officer behind the desk could have been "more sensitive", but qualified his actions by saying he didn't know how to handle the complaint because the attack occurred online.

"The officer admitted that he heard the complaint and cyber crime and pornography and wasn't exactly sure what the police could do and with the limited details he had," Superintendent Nicole Bruce explained to Hack yesterday.

Last August, another young Australian woman walked into her local police station to report a crime.

Paloma Brierley Newton went to speak to Newtown police on behalf of a friend who'd been called a slut, mocked about her weight and threatened with sexual violence after a screenshot of her Tinder profile was shared on Facebook and she had herself become a target of online trolls.

While the officers she spoke to were sympathetic, they were equally ill-equipped to deal with "cyber crime" and she left, deflated.

Paloma continued to push, however, and eventually achieved an outcome when one of the most despicable trolls, Zane Alchin, was brought to justice - again, sort of.

Alchin received a conviction for his abuse - the first of its kind in Australia - but arguably was let off lightly.


One the most disturbing aspects of his trial, aside from Alchin's appalling lack of remorse for his actions, was the analogy given by Magistrate William Pierce to explain them.

Paloma Brierley Newton. Source: Facebook

"If you’re on the football field, you consent to a few bumps, so a few mildly explicit comments, in this analogy … your sexually explicit comments were the equivalent of socking someone in the jaw with a right hook," he said, implying that by daring to use the internet women submit to some level of abuse.

In a weird way, he's not wrong. When you consider that a woman is called a sl*t or a wh*re on Twitter every 10 seconds, you do learn to expect that taunts come with the territory.

That doesn't make it okay.

Similarly, when you consider that 19 per cent of Australian women will experience sexual assault from the age of 15, it's not that surprising when it inevitably happens to you or someone you know.

That doesn't make it okay.

In the same way, if you're feeling yourself and you take a nude photo to capture the moment, of course you do so knowing there's a risk some *sshole will misuse it.

That absolutely doesn't make it okay when he does. It doesn't make it your fault either.

Watch: A victim of the photo website speaks to Channel 7. (Post continues after video.)

Video by Channel 7 News

The Australian Federal Police have launched an investigation into the site, which reportedly lists girls from more than 70 Australian schools, but say that taking it down is "complicated" because it's hosted on international servers.


Meanwhile, its victims - many of whom are underage - wait anxiously, powerless to stop people looking at their private images.

To add insult to injury, everyone keeps blaming them, insisting they ought to have been more careful.

"Once you post an image on the internet and you press send, you have no control and that image can end up anywhere," AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Marcus Borman warned in a press conference on Wednesday.

It's a sentiment that has been echoed repeatedly by his state counterparts, with little to no mention of the perpetrators of the crime. And it's a sentiment that's repeated almost every time a woman is attacked, by everyone. ("What was she wearing?", "Was she drunk?", "Did she have headphones on?")

Sharna Bremner of End Rape on Campus Australia has labelled the police response in this instance "appalling".

More than that, however, she says it proves they have a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the crime at hand.

"Just because you give a photo with consent, you don't give consent for that photo to be uploaded to the internet," she told Mamamia.

"Victims of sexual violence are the only ones that ever have to answer any questions about what they did that caused the crime.

"I understand that it's hard to track a site that's hosted internationally, but these boys aren't getting this information out of nowhere, they're not finding out about it through accident. Somebody knows who is posting this stuff but no one is asking how they know and who they might be?"

As we live more of our lives online than ever before, the distinction between cyber space and 'real' life is inevitably becoming eroded.

We need law enforcement and our legal system to keep up.

Whether police receive more specific training to deal with "cyber crime" or not, the important take home is that it's crime and our solutions need to focus on its perpetrators.

Regardless, when a girl goes to her local police station to report that she feels at risk, the correct response is never, ever to ask: What did she do to deserve it?

And it's certainly not to laugh at her.