Written by Nina Deacon
It was recently reported that thousands of Irish women had their sexual and intimate images, along with personal details leaked online without their consent.
This occurred after a victims’ support group uncovered nearly 140,000 stolen images from women online. It is believed that Irish women were targeted,as shockingly there is no law against this type of violation in the country.
This scandal opened up a broader conversation about consent, misogyny, and the slut shaming these victims have been forced to endure since this news broke earlier this month.
The lack of protection of this type of image-based assault was illustrated in the case of Dara Quigley.
In 2017 she was detained under the Mental Health Act after she was found naked on a Dublin street in what was described as a “psychotic episode” by her mother.
On that day, state CCTV captured images of her walking naked and forcibly being detained, and footage was held by An Garda Siochana.
Someone in the station recorded the CCTV images off a monitor and shared it to a Whatsapp group, and posted the images on Facebook, which were shared an estimated 125,000 times.
Dara became aware of the footage’s release and committed suicide on April 12th that year.
To this day, nobody has been held responsible for this blatant violation of Dara’s dignity and rights.
The outcry and anger of the leakage of these woman’s images was equally matched by slut-shaming,judgment,and fury about this being made into a “big deal.” Many people argued that these women made the choice to expose themselves in the first place and should have anticipated the risks involved.
It is important to note that men are not solely to blame for these comments, as many women were equally vocal in shaming these victims.
The central issue that underlies this entire conversation is that of consent and respect.
Under no circumstances did these women consent to having their personal details and images released to the public, yet they are being treated as if what happened to them was inevitable.
What happened to them is a complete violation of their rights, and the perpetrators should be held responsible.
In the era of #MeToo and the infamous Belfast rape trial it should come as no surprise that 90% of revenge porn victims are women. Although great strides have been made in the last few decades towards women’s rights, this is unfortunately yet another example of the countless ways in which society continuously undermines women and shames victims.
This is precisely why so many women live in fear and why the majority of assault whether sexual or media based go unreported. This is not simply a “woman’s issue.” Perhaps it is not ironic that this news broke on the week of International Men’s Day, as men need to be at the centre of this conversation as much as women are, if not more.
They are pivotal in driving the much needed social change.
Ireland, like much of the world has a deeply ingrained “boys will be boys” culture.This attitude is extremely dangerous as it reinforces gender stereotypes and excuses behaviour that allow men to act however they want without understanding the damaging effects their actions have. By speaking out against the blatant hypocrisy and misogyny this scandal has sparked, and by standing in solidarity with these women the vicious cycle of blame and shaming can be broken. The only way to spark a societal shift is by having these difficult conversations and refusing to remain quiet and therefore complacent.The psychological impact that the leakage of these images has had on the victims (many of whom are underage) is inexcusable. A petition of over 40,000 signatures has gone viral, and the government are now under pressure to bring in legislation to ban this horrific violation.
However, the conversation cannot end here.Why are we as a society so quick to blame the victims. Perhaps it is because as human beings we feel the need to believe that we all deserve the outcomes and consequences in our lives.
However, what these women did is not wrong,and the focus should be on those who breached these women’s confidentiality.
For as stated by the poet Farida D, slut-shaming a woman for what she consents to do sexually perpetuates the idea that women should not consent to sex ,and should instead accept it passively.
Both men and women need to become aware of the internalized misogyny we all possess, and change the way we talk about and treat women in our society.