Who’s fault is it anyway?
Why does the sense of responsibility for one’s own actions evaporate when it comes to sexual harassment?
There’s been a great deal of recent public discussion and debate about the non-consensual distribution of naked images — through hacking, ‘leaks’, and revenge porn.
The debate has been fuelled by some high-profile ‘leaks’ — from the global fallout from the celebrity iCloud hack in August 2014, to June 2015 when dozens of women and girls from Adelaide, Australia had their intimate photos published online.
The latter example is one I’m very familiar with, because I was one of the women.
A naked image of my (14 year-old) self, which I originally shared with my boyfriend at the time, wound up on a US-based site dedicated to revenge porn. I woke up to a slew of men asking me for more images, and strangers from around the globe trying to gain access to my social media accounts. It was horrifying.
Almost a year on, and I still get men trying to start conversations with me based on the photo. To make matters worse, I know that this photo is still out there, with my name and personal details attached.
Want to know what made it so much worse? The overwhelming reaction was that we victims “only had ourselves to blame”.
This attitude that we’d somehow brought this upon ourselves came from everywhere. Breakfast show Sunrise covered the story along with an online post which said “What’s it going to take for women to get the message about taking and sending nude photos?” I wondered “What’s it going to take for men to get the message about violating a woman’s privacy?”
The South Australian police were on TV too, reminding women to exercise caution and to think twice about taking nude photos — these law enforcers seemingly oblivious to the fact that taking nude images of yourself isn’t a crime, yet stealing or redistributing these images often is.
This misdirection of blame seems to be giving courage to others seeking to partake in these crimes, most visibly through so-called ‘lads’ groups on social media.
Previously relatively harmless — focused around memes, gaming, and fail compilation videos — these groups seem increasingly willing to propagate revenge porn.
The groups function like relatively pathetic men’s secret societies, with new members needing to be invited by current members, and a pervasive feeling of Fight Club-esque secrecy.
In recent days, a story out of Melbourne has been developing concerning a member of one of these groups.
19 year old Lindor Jonuzi — a member of Facebook group ‘Melbourne lads Vol. 2’ –decided to earn “respect” in the group by sharing nudes of local women and girls and with other group members.
As explained by Jonuzi himself, he gained access to these images by creating “fake female accounts” and infiltrating female-only Facebook groups based on body-positivity, a mutual sense of trust and acting forum for women to discuss topics in a safe space online. In other words, he violated the space these women had carved out for themselves and used it for his own gain. (He would later retract this, claiming he simply pinched them from another lads group.)
Luckily, there are people out there who realise how gross this invasion of privacy is. Brandon Cook is one of them. Upon learning about Jonuzi’s actions, Cook made the decision to publicly condemn the invasion of privacy. He made a Facebook post which included the image above, and tagged Jonuzi’s employer Lucky Entertainment, alerting them of their employee’s actions.
The fallout from the post was significant. Lucky Entertainment announced that Jonuzi’s contract had been terminated, and Jonuzi wrote a public apology on Facebook.
Both boys also started getting a lot of hate.
Yes, you read that correctly. The guy who did the bad thing and the guy who did the right thing by calling out the bad thing both started receiving a torrent of abuse.
Jonuzi has been copping pretty much what you’d expect. He received a lot of criticism based on the fact that the woman whose images he shared was reportedly underage (although there has been some debate around this), and for reportedly deleting comments on his apology condemning his behaviour (and only leaving comments supporting him). Aside from this, it tended to be what you would expect when someone invades someone else’s privacy — people calling his behaviour disgusting and generally thinking he’s a bit of a tool.
Cook, however, is getting the blame for Jonuzi losing his job/ruining his life, and is being condemned for breaking the ‘bro code’ (you cannot make this up) and (drum roll)…for invading the privacy of a the lads Facebook group.
After I’ve finished shaking my head at the ‘bro code’ being used as a serious argument, and the intense hypocrisy of someone calling out an invasion of privacy being accused of an invasion of privacy, I want to return to the first point — that Cook is somehow responsible for Jonuzi’s online behaviour and its real world consequences.
Cook simply made Jonuzi’s actions known to the wider public. He reported the crime, he didn’t commit it.
This is not the first time a whistleblower has been blamed for a perpetrator’s loss of employment in the past 12 months. In another well-documented online incident in November 2015, prominent feminist writer Clementine Ford received abuse from Facebook user Michael Nolan. Like Jonuzi, Nolan happened to have his employer, Meriton Apartments, listed on Facebook. Ford reported Nolan’s behaviour and Meriton chose to terminate Nolan’s employment as they deemed it to be inappropriate. Despite Nolan being the guilty party, it was Ford who was blamed by the angry masses.
To this, Ford publicly explained:
“To anyone who suggests I have caused a man to lose his job, I’d like to say this: No. He is responsible for his actions. He is responsible for the things he writes and the attitudes he holds. It is not my responsibility to hold his hand and coddle him when he behaves in an abusive manner just because it might have consequences for him. Women are often told to stay silent about harassment because it’s not fair to ‘ruin a man’s career’. Why is their behaviour our responsibility? Enough. If you enjoy exercising misogyny online, you only have yourself to blame if the people with power over your life — your bosses, friends, family etc — decide that they don’t want to be associated with you anymore. The targets of your abuse are in no way, shape or form responsible for making sure your actions have no recriminations for you.
…I’d also like to say that consequences for online behaviour are nothing new. Typically though, it’s girls and women who are expected to ‘know better’ when it comes to posting things online. Tables are turning, boys.”
Ford’s point resonates with the last line of Cook’s post to Lucky Entertainment, in which he states “ I’ve opted to make this a public Facebook post so people can understand that their online behaviour doesn’t occur in a vacuum.” This tends to be forgotten by perpetrators of online abuse, only to bite them in the bum when they are (rightly) called out on their bad behaviour.
The notion that the consequences for the perpetrator’s behaviour are the fault of the victim is almost entirely unique to sexual harassment and sex-based crimes where women are the victims. This notion is further exaggerated when the incident takes place online, as though the online realm is a mystical land with no responsibility to be seen.
The reality is, what you post online does affect real life, for both victims and perpetrators. The internet is not an alternate reality, with its contents restricted to screens and never impacting the real world we live in. There are real people on there, and there are real consequences for online actions.
The response to the notion that online actions have real world consequences generally comes back to the woman/girl who has had her image shared without her consent or knowledge.
I mean, she’s the idiot right? What did she think would happen? That people would be decent and not violate her privacy? What a sucker!
No. Women who have their intimate photos and videos shared without their consent and/or without their knowledge are not to blame, ever. The woman who had her photos stolen by Jonuzi is not a “slut”, she’s not an “idiot” and she shouldn’t have “known better”. She shared the images of herself with people she trusted, and Jonuzi violated that. He’s the idiot, and he’s the one now unemployed, yet it’s the woman in the photo and the members of the women-only groups infiltrated by Jonuzi who are being targeted.
Ford has also written on the subject of Jonuzi, further reiterating that he brought his unemployment upon himself. “There are frustratingly far too many people still who want to protect and shield men like Jonuzi from the consequences of their actions while forcing women to continue absorbing them quietly.” She too expresses the need for there to be a wider societal push for online offenders to own their actions, and reminds her readers that “you don’t get a free pass from being a socially conscious individual just because you’re in online spaces.”
I, and a growing number of women, refuse to be blamed for the actions of someone else. A victim of crime is never responsible or to blame for the offender’s choices, whether that be online or in real life. We will not be abused for fighting back and for refusing to take responsibility for what someone else has done.
“He’s really sorry”? So he should be.
“He didn’t mean to hurt anyone”? Well, he did, and he doesn’t get to ‘decide’ that he didn’t.
“Why are you trying to ruin his life?” What did he think leaking a nude photo of a woman would do to her life? Because, unfortunately, society doesn’t seem to have reached the point where blaming the girl in the photo isn’t the default reaction.
And we‘re not gonna take it.