Victim shaming

Newsday Editorial
Friday, June 17 2016 – newsday.co.tt

Sex And blackmailWE CONDEMN the flagrant violation of the privacy of a wide range of citizens which has been brought to the fore in recent weeks. Further, we also condemn the blatant – and sometimes politically-motivated – instances of victim shaming which have accompanied these incidents.

The matter involving former PNM senator Hafeez Ali has been accompanied by rhetoric from people seeking to score political points.

One UNC official has been quoted as saying “misbehaviour in public office” was involved even though there is no suggestion of this on the known facts. While the truth behind the resignation remains subject to some degree of speculation, extortion/blackmail has been suggested. The only “abuse” or “improper” thing here would be the gross violation of Ali’s right to a private sexual life, whether facilitated by modern social media tools or otherwise.

Even the PNM, too, has unfortunately participated, with one party official describing Ali’s conduct as a “transgression”, as though we are entitled to judge it as such. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Also unacceptable are remarks that have been made in relation to a reported scheme to publish private photos of girls and women which on Wednesday resulted in the Children’s Authority warning the public to desist from sharing illicitly-obtained materials.

Incredibly, people have taken to social media to deride the female victims, saying they should never have recorded footage in the first place.

Never mind the fact that while there is a risk inherent in any communication tool, these individuals are still entitled to their privacy and to being allowed to express themselves sexually.

People would do well to remember the words of High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad.

“There can be no circumstance that is more private and confidential than where parties are engaged in consensual sexual activity in private,” the judge said in 2015 in a landmark case brought by a woman who had her images deliberately leaked by an ex-lover. “An obligation of confidentiality can and must be implied. Consequently, all photographs and recordings which capture sexual practices conducted in private should only be disseminated where the express consent of all the parties involved has been obtained.” The judge ordered cricketer Lendl Simmons to pay the victim $150,000.

Sadly, legislation to tackle cybercrime is limited. For example, the Computer Misuse Act is restricted to specific circumstances. The Act dates back to 2000 before the rise of social media and modern information communications technology. Also, it limits the bringing of a prosecution to within 12 months, meaning once time passes, the perpetrators will be immune.

While child pornography is outlawed, not all victims will be people under 18 years, nor is it always easy to prove that the recipient/transmitter knew of the age of the victim. The controls on the State’s surveillance statutes are also so inaccessible as to be nugatory.

Both the Cybercrime Bill 2015 and the Cyber Security Agency Bill 2015 lapsed in the last Parliament. However, the Government has placed the matter on its legislative agenda for the period 2015-2017.

That said, law is one thing, enforcement another. It is a well-known fact that the police are stretched.

Does the Cybercrime Unit have what it needs to tackle sophisticated hackers? The other side of the coin is the social aspect relating to the audience.

As the sacking of Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee reminded us, victim shaming is a real problem in our society, particularly when women are involved.

Local politicians would do well to take a cue from US President Barack Obama who this week said, “We need to change the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality but gives men a pat on the back for theirs.” If we don’t end our double standards and hypocrisy about our bodies and our privacy rights, we are no different from the violators.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/editorial/0,229322.html

4 Responses to “Victim shaming”


  • 8 DIRTY MEN
    BEWILDERED victims of a leak of hundreds of photographs of nude females on an international pornography site, while expressing anger, outrage and shame on being exploited, have identified at least eight medical students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus, among them scholarship winners, with whom they shared nude photos.

    UWI Principal: Guilty students will pay

    Guild President condemns nude photos leak
    PRESIDENT of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine Guild of Students, Makesi Peters yesterday denounced the leak of nude photos of 500 female students of the University.

    Net closes on computers used to send stolen nude photos
    As they close in on a local pornography ring, investigating officers say they may have to subpoena an American-based company to retrieve the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the perpetrators responsible for selling, sharing and viewing thousands of nude photographs of young women.

  • Hey Newsday this is the electronic age where knowledge is moving at the speed of light. You all are the biggest hypocrites in the moral compass because you do worst than shaming. If you have a digital image then chances are someone is having access or going to have access to it. It is just the world we live in, everyone in today’s world can post stuff on social media. Careers can end very quickly.

  • Don’t matter how thin we try to slice it there is always two sides. These are young professional medical students who one day will have charge of our bodies during medical examination. Then is it feasible that one day our image can be taken out of the private and confidential realm and find it circulating on social media? At least it is expected that there is some measure of ethical values to be expressed here by both sexes of the medical profession.

  • Cops stumped in ex-PNM senator’s sex case
    Since 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States has warned of online dating scams, where people solicit photos under the guise of romantic interest, then use the images to extort money from victims.

    Porn blackmail
    As the police has been brought in to investigate the international pornography ring which posted nude pictures of hundreds of young women online, the male originators of the sites, fearing the girls will identify them, are now threatening their victims further with blackmail.

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