Kirsty*, from the NSW central coast, felt sick as she clicked open the link her sister sent her. Her own face stared back at her from the screen, grainy and candid, and beneath it was her own body dressed in nothing but a bra and underwear.
Kirsty’s stomach turned. She knew where the photos came from – she’d taken them herself and one of her sister’s ex boyfriends had stolen them directly from her phone. “I didn’t even send them to anyone,” Kirsty told marie claire. And now anyone at all could search for her name and drool over the same pictures.
“I was told there was a topless one too, but it was too large to upload,” Kirsty, 25, said. “I felt so gross. It’s unfair being shamed and called a slut when I'm not that at all.”
“Slut” is the least of the insults levelled at thousands of Australian women and girls at the revenge porn website Aussie Sluts, where Kirsty’s photos ended up. The website is like a sick Pokemon trading site for sleazy men and boys – except the Pokemon cards are real women, divided into dozens of schools and towns, with their faces visible, their most private moments shared and their names and locations revealed. “Does anyone have any wins of [name withheld]?” reads an average post – a ‘win’ being the term for a picture the other users have acquired, either legally or through theft. “Can offer wins of [name withheld] from Bris in exchange.”
Captions and comments on the pictures – which are usually taken at parties, hacked from phones or sent via text or Snapchat - make it clear that the men and boys involved with posting them think of these women as nothing more than garbage to be denigrated and mocked.
“[Name withheld] pulled out her tits at a Werribee party the other day,” says one typical post. “Bit fat though.”
“Anything on Madilyn? She's been a whore since she was like 16,” asks another sleaze. “Now that she's 20 I know she keeps being a hoe. Who has titty pictures of her?”
Even worse, the site points to private drop boxes – called “Volas” - where even more graphic pics can be shared and swapped without detection, and deleted after two days. One post encourages others to swap pics of “twelvies” – slang for 12-year-old girls.
The site isn’t new. In August last year the site was taken down by police after it featured an image of an underage girl, the Daily Telegraph reported. But it was back online a mere 10 days later.
Kristy and her family have contacted their local police station but were told that there was little they could do. They also reported the site to The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and are awaiting a reply.
marie claire has contacted NSW police for more information and were told that the Sex Crimes Unit will review the case.
Revenge porn, or the threat to distribute and intimate image, is dealt with under S41DA and 41DB of the Summary Offences Act. It carries a maximum sentence of two years jail.
Kirsty’s two sisters also have photos on the site. Kristy’s younger sister Claire* found photos of herself stolen from her Facebook page. She’s fully clothed in each picture but comments are urging other users to “win” nudes of her. She’s called a 'slut' and a 'whore'. “It’s super degrading,” Claire, who’s 20 but was 18 when the photos were taken, told Marie Claire. “I'm a sexual being but I get to choose when and how and who. I get to choose who is viewing my body. It feels like a massive violation.”
Claire is studying to become a high school teacher and fears that her inclusion on the site will potentially harm her career prospects. “If you Google my high school and the word ‘sluts’ after it – a picture of me pops up,” she says.
Kirsty and Claire's mother Grace* told marie claire that she was absolutely devastated for her three girls, and the thousands of other girls featured on the site. “These 'precious' males – you know that if [they were featured on a site like this] they wouldn’t stand for it,” she said. “Girls are not just garbage. They’re not possessions. You can’t swap them.”
“It’s so wrong.”
*name have been changed