opinion

To all the girls who’ve been exploited on that disgusting website: you will be OK.

This week, hundreds of Australian teenage girls have been pushed to the edge.

They’ve discovered naked photos of themselves have been uploaded without their consent onto a sickening online porn sharing website.

Some of the photos were taken without the girls’ knowledge. Others may have been taken by the girls themselves and shared with a partner. It matters little, because now those images are being viewed lasciviously online by low-life scum around the world. Personal details are being traded. Blanks filled in.

And for those girls who have been targeted, the world has suddenly become a very dark, scary place. For many girls, they have entered a type of hell where it seems there is no possible escape. Ever.

But they are wrong.  I am here to tell you they are wrong.

"But they are wrong.  I am here to tell you they are wrong." Writer, Rebecca Sparrow (Image supplied)

You see, three years ago I received a phone call.

I was told something had surfaced about me online. This wasn’t unusual. I’d been writing online for several years. During that time I’d been hit with every insult imaginable. But this was different. Whatever it was that had been discovered – well, I knew it wasn’t good. Put it this way, my editor was crying.

Turns out a “pro-rape” website run out of Europe had decided to punish me for writing so many feminist articles.

To teach me a lesson they’d published a 1000 word essay about me. A 1000 word essay calling me a slut and a whore. A 1000 word essay that fabricated a sexual history for me. An essay that included a photo of one of my children; a link to my husband’s workplace. An essay that was designed to humiliate me.

I don’t know what was worse: the story itself or the hundreds and hundreds of comments made about me by men around the world who made lewd, gut-churning remarks about my appearance.

'There were gut-churning remarks about my appearance.' (Image: iStock)

So I know what it’s like to feel like your story, your image is out of your control. I know what it’s like to worry that for the rest of your life when people Google your name this story – these ugly words – will come up.

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For the first few days I was in a rage. That’s an understatement. I cried. I yelled. I swore. I rang a lawyer and looked into my legal recourse. And then I got quiet and you know what I thought? I thought, “Screw them.”

SCREW THEM.

Because I am not in that story. And more the fool you if you think you can take my power away from me. I know who I am. My friends know who I am. And I’m happy. And if anyone chooses to believe the insane ramblings of a frankly badly written story on a PRO-RAPE WEBSITE – well, they’re not people I’d want around me anyway.

And the same is true for these girls.

Do I want you to take naked photos of yourself and share them with anyone? HELL NO, SISTER!  But I am not here to shame you for taking those photos. Or for sharing them. I get it. I get that when you’re a teenager sometimes taking a naked selfie is a way for you to test out your sexuality. It’s a way for you to dip your toe in the water without actually having to have sex. You feel like – in that moment – it’s an image you can control. Except it’s not. THIS, this whole ugly story is proof of that.

 You feel like – in that moment – it’s an image you can control. Except it’s not. THIS, this whole ugly story is proof of that. (Image: iStock)

But now that you know better, you can do better.

And nothing has to ruin your life forever. It doesn’t. I am living proof of that.

Don’t give away your power to that website. Don’t shrink down out of shame.  You have done nothing wrong. Don’t be consumed with guilt.

The people who should be feeling guilty are those boys, those men who have shared these images without your consent. I hope the law tracks them done. And it will. And when it does, I hope they throw the bloody book at them.

As for you? Run on. Run on and live your best life.

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