'Slut shaming' women on social media puts man behind bars

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced / Facebook)

SYDNEY, Australia (Christian Examiner) – In August, a man named Chris Hall took a screen shot of Olivia Melville's Tinder profile and reposted it to his Facebook page in order to mock her profile tagline, a song lyric. Strangers taking the tagline and Hall's comments seriously went to Melville's profile to "slut shame" her. But it didn't stop there.

When Melville's friend Paloma Brierley Newton defended the woman on Facebook, Newton began to receive obscene threats from a 25-year-old man named Zane Alchin, who was arrested at his home in Sydney and charged with charged with using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, according to News.com.au.

The Internet is not an invisibility cloak, behind every computer is a living breathing human being who has feelings and emotions.
- Paloma Brierley Newton

"When men shame you, it feels pretty gross and awful," Newton said, according to Mashable. "For me, I felt angry, I can't speak for Olivia, but when this individual posted things with my photo on the comment thread with things like 'kill it before it breeds' I literally saw red."

Among the derogatory and extremely lewd comments Alchin allegedly posted are threats to rape Newton and her mother, as well as an exhortation for Newton to slap her mother because "obviously your father never did it enough."

In an Aug. 25 note on her Facebook page, Newton wrote about the reality of "slut shaming":

"This kind of behaviour is what we call 'normalisation of violence against women' and it is really really scary and damaging, it is the reason that every day our mothers, our sisters and our friends are killed by men, and raped by men.

"Every time you 'playfully' tell a woman to get back in the kitchen, every time you smack a girl on the bum because its funny, every time you make a joke about rape YOU are contributing to a society where unfortunately women are not safe."

When Newton initially went to the police to report the harassment and explicit rape threats, they did not have a clear policy for how to handle the situation.

Newton created the Facebook page Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced (SVWBS), which has over 9,000 likes, as well as a Change.org petition by the same name, which has over 15,000 signatures.

In the petition, Newton calls for more education for law enforcement about how to handle online harassment, which she supports with data from the Pew Research Center about how frequent and yet how underreported such harassment really is.

  • 66 percent of online harassment occurs on social networking websites, to both men and women.
  • 70 percent of 18 to 24 year olds have experienced online harassment.
  • 26 percent of 18 to 24 year old women have experienced online sexual harassment.
  • 22 percent reported the offense to the online platform, only 5 percent reported the offense to law enforcement.

"I stood up for my friend because I believe when you see an injustice you do something, if you see something horrible happening to someone else and you don't do anything, you are being compliant in that awful thing," Newton said. "When you do something you are helping to effect actual social change. Social change is what we need in order to have sexual equality."

On Oct, 25, the SVWBS Facebook page applauds the news that police arrested Alchin, whose case will be heard Oct. 29 and thanks the police for taking action and international media for raising awareness about the specific situation that represents a wider need.

The petition reminds people online harassment is as "distressing" and "real" as harassment that occurs in person. It inhibits "an honest and open public conversation" and demands a complex response because of the complex nature of the threats.

"The Internet is not an invisibility cloak, behind every computer is a living breathing human being who has feelings and emotions," Newton said.

The hateful and vulgar comments allegedly posted by Alchin also disparaged women in general, in addition to "slut shaming" Melville and other members of the SVWBS group. "It's people like you who make it clear that women should never have been given rights," Alchin wrote.

Other of his comments are too sexually explicit to be shared.

Newton's argument and that of the advocacy group she created is what happens online is not separate from what happens in real life.

"The Internet is not a fake place, it is a very real place," she added, "and it actually makes harassment and shaming huge. We don't do things online or offline anymore, we just do things and we need to be responsible for how we treat people."