'I shamed a man for stealing nude photos. And I'm not sure if I'd do it again.'

For the past week, I’ve been in touch with more strangers than I can count.

I’ve received both positive praise and numerous insults. I’ve been called hero, beautiful, fuckwit, poofter and queer. I’ve even copped death threats. I’ve had my name plastered on multiple media outlets, and had my face on nationally broadcast television for all to see.

And I haven’t even had to leave my house.

Around a week ago, I made a public post on Facebook, ousting a total stranger for despicable behaviour.

brandon cook facebook post
Image via Facebook.

A nineteen-year-old boy snuck into a woman-only Facebook group using a fake account. He stole what he saw as scandalous photos – snaps shared by a woman for body-positive affirmation – and reposted them to a less-than-friendly ‘lad banter’ group. These images were captioned in the explicit interest of “roasting sluts” – and not in a Comedy Central kind of way, where people submit themselves willingly for laughs. These were intended for vicious ridicule.

Someone in that ‘lad group’ decided that his actions were over the line, and a screenshot of the post began doing the rounds on the Internet, with people trying to contact his workplace. Eventually the warning reached me. 

Knowing that the boy and I worked in similar industries, I decided that the best way to break ground was through a public call-out post. It blew up, and his contract was terminated.

But that was just the beginning.

Watch John Oliver discuss the impact of revenge porn below. Post continues after video…

Video via HBO

Suddenly I was getting calls from The Age, the Daily Mail, Pedestrian – and even this here Mamamia. The post I made took on a life of its own, and before long I was staring down the barrel of not just a camera for Channel Ten’s The Project, but Australia-wide media concentration and criticism. All in one short week.

I am what they call a “whistleblower”.

The reactions have been fierce and divided. I’ve received loads of messages from heaps of people – a huge quantity of them total strangers – with opinions on my behaviour.

They’re ranged from “What a swell guy”; I’m a dude with the apparent bravery to ‘break the bro code’ – and publicly call out another dude on shit behaviour. But there’s also a stack of men in the crowd, who want to let me know that I’m a ‘narc’, an ‘attention seeking fuckwit’, and a ‘piece of shit’ who ‘ruined someone’s life’. 

brandon cook abuse facebook
Images: Provided.

I could never have expected the story to blow up like it did. To me, it was just a call-out post on the Internet, highlighting the abhorrent behaviour of a boy towards a young woman.

It’s important that men stand up to one another regarding misogynistic behaviour towards women. That’s the principle that guided the post I made, and what led me through every interview. But when this became a matter of public scrutiny, I was forced to watch as men made loud attacks on my character, and coloured my behaviour in whatever shade they liked.

If they’re ‘haters’, then I was always a ‘keyboard warrior’, just an unhinged and unstable kid obsessed with ‘social justice’ – like that’s a bad thing. If people were fond of me, then I’m just the kind of person who would put himself on the line. There’s barely credit where credit is due, or reasonable criticism.

Being a whistleblower essentially steals your humanity from the public eye; you become a character in a storyline. The woman whose photos were shared without her consent became The Victim. The man who stole them became The Villain. And I became The Vigilante. That’s not always a good thing.

brandon cook hate 2
Images: Provided.

Sure, you can keep a strong public image, and reassure everyone that you know you’ve made the right choice. People will tell you that he ruined himself, and you should stay the course and hold your head high. But you will not see it that way.

People don’t see the stress, the anxiety or the self-doubt. They don’t see you have the revelation on repeat that you’d potentially damaged someone’s life – someone who isn’t a two-dimensional character in a story, but an actual human being, capable of wrongs and redemption just like anybody else.

They don’t see how you might stare up at your ceiling at night, and wonder if you’re a Vigilante or a Villain – or perhaps vigilante is villain?

One hundred percent of the negative feedback I received on my behaviour was from men. One hundred percent of women, who responded to my story, responded with positive praise. And out of all those women, every single one had been, or knew, a victim of this kind of behaviour.

brandon cook the project
One hundred percent of the negative feedback I received on my behaviour was from men. (Image via Network Ten)

That should be enough for me to do it again. But would I? 

I want to be a moralist, and I want to say, “Yes, I would do it again. Because it’s so important and crucial to changing minds and hearts and lives.”

But ultimately, putting oneself in the spotlight can sting your eyes. I don’t know if I’m a strong enough person to do it again. I don’t know if many people are. I think the people who presume it’s a publicity thrill ride are those who have never experienced it.

To shamelessly quote Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. This time around, I wasn’t going to walk past.

But anyone who puts up a fight for long is going to cop some blows.

Have you ever been a whistleblower? Would you do it again?

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