A SIMPLE Google search was all it took to bring one teen’s world crashing down around her, and reveal a horrific online secret that still haunts her five years later.
Noelle Martin was a regular 18-year-old working towards finishing her law degree.
Like many of us have done at some point, Noelle decided to Google herself one day to see what would come up.
She reverse searched an image from her Facebook profile, and to her horror, was met with multiple explicit images of her herself plastered over dozens of porn websites.
Only the images weren’t actually of her. Anonymous predators had taken her face and photoshopped it onto numerous pornographic pictures.
“I really cannot put into words the feeling of when I first saw those pictures,” Ms Martin told news.com.au.
“It is so violating and it feels like someone is pouring paint stripper onto your dignity. It’s so dehumanising.”
From what Ms Martin could see the images dates back to about a year before, when she was just 17-years-old.
The earliest instances showed ordinary photos taken from her Facebook page – but alongside them were pictures of naked women, with anonymous men claiming Noelle had sent it to them.
As time went on it escalated to her face being photoshopped onto the pictures.
There are hundreds of these images circulating online of Noelle’s face doctored onto bodies of women in varying sexual poses and situations.
“I have been photoshopped having sexual intercourse and on the body of a woman wearing a sheer top with the slogan ‘I am a dumb cow’ on it,” she said.
“I have been put onto the cover of two adult movies, one had the words, “Treat me like a whore” on the front.”
What is even more terrifying than these disgusting images is many were accompanied by identifying information like Ms Martin’s name, where she lived and studied, along with highly graphic comments.
She is now 23 and five years on she is still being targeted by this sick online community.
Since she had started speaking out about the issue of image based abuse Perth-based Ms Martin said the attacks have gotten even worse.
“Now I have started speaking out against it the abuse has gotten worse in an attempt to keep me quiet. They have escalated to doctoring me into pornographic videos which appear to show me performing numerous sexual acts.”
Unfortunately she is just one of the many victims suffering from image based abuse, with one in five Australian’s aged between 16 and 49 experiencing it.
In the past hasn’t been many specific avenues in place to help these people and punish perpetrators.
New laws are being introduced by the Western Australian government that would make it a criminal offence to distribute non-consensual intimate images of someone.
Photoshopped images would also be covered under this definition.
This crime would carry with it a jail term of 18 months and fines up to $18,000.
Ms Martin still has no idea who first posted her images and getting them removed has proved nearly impossible.
“I went to the police, I called government agencies, I tried getting a private investigator but there was nothing anyone could do,” she said.
“I was told I had to contact the webmasters of the site to get everything deleted.
“It wasn’t explicitly said that it was my responsibility but effectively it was put on me. I doubt I’ll ever get the images down.”
When she first opened up about the abuse Ms Martin was told she needed to be careful with the type of images she posted on social media and the clothes she wore in those photos.
“For a long time I believed it was my fault, but I wish I knew then what I know now. I am doing nothing wrong and I am entitled to wear whatever I want and put pictures on my Facebook. What I wear is not an invitation for someone to do this to me.
“I shouldn’t have to be held responsible for the sick things these people are doing.”
She said she wants to show other victims that there is support out there and the acts didn’t have to control their lives.
“How it would affect finding a job was one of my biggest concerns. I studied law and had just graduated and especially in that field so much focus is place on your name and image,” she said.
“Now I have got a good job and I want other victims to know that this does not have to affect your employability. If I can do it, they can to.”
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is one of the organisations that victims of these types of crimes can turn to for help. They offer support in reporting the photos in order to get them removed and help in speaking with the police.
ESafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant told news.com.au image-based abuse was an “insidious practice” that affected one in five Australias.
“It can have a devastating impact on a victim’s life,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“We encourage Australians who have had their intimate images shared online without their consent to report is to us, so that we can take action to remove the images and provide other forms of support that may be needed.”
Unfortunately a lot of the time the perpetrators were based overseas or hidden behind encrypted network which made it nearly impossible for police to press charges.
But Ms Martin said bills like the one being introduced in WA were a step in the right direction.
“It’s such a powerful stand and sends a very firm message that this is no longer going to be tolerated,” she said.
“This is just one of the steps we need and now we need to take the national and global steps as well.”
-Australians affected by image-based abuse can report incidents to the eSafety commissioner at www.esafety.gov.au/imagebasedabuse.
Originally published as Picture reveals sickening online secret
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