If you thought that a flasher was someone who hid their manhood behind a newspaper until the appropriate moment then our Christine has news for you in this week’s political column.
It appears that flashing has, like almost everything else, gone online!
‘Cyber-flashing’, which is the act of sending obscene pictures or videos to others via social media, needs to become a criminal offense in Ireland immediately. Nearly every woman I know has received an unsolicited ‘dick pic’ from a man at some stage. This is just unacceptable and men think they can get away with it.
I myself have received plenty of sexual images that I did not consent to, for simply being a woman on the internet. I was underage when I received my first unsolicited ‘dick pic’, only getting to grips with what I learned in sexual education class, but a man disgustingly thought, “let’s send a picture of my private parts to a child”.
On Sunday, myself and eight wonderful women: Rosemarie Maughan, Evie Nevin, Emma Langford, Aoife Granville, Kathy D’Arcy, Erin Darcy, Síle Ní Dhubhghaill and Megan Sims, all organised an online vigil for the late Ashling Murphy, who was a 23-year-old teacher from Tullamore, Co Offaly, who was murdered in broad daylight while she was going for a run. While Maughan spoke passionately about how men need to teach their boys to respect women, we all noticed that my name “Christine O’Mahony”, appeared twice on the Zoom Panellist list.
I was left confused as I did not log into Zoom on another device. The camera of this other “Christine O’Mahony” account suddenly switched on and it was a man masturbating while we were mourning and grieving Ashling Murphy. Despite this, the brave Maughan continued her speech, but it left many of our viewers traumatised. I later learned that there were children present at this vigil, children have literally been exposed to pornography. This vile incident had a significant impact on the survivors of sexual assault who attended the vigil. I myself am a victim of sexual assault and I was left speechless, I could barely recite my speech in full whenit was my turn to speak. How could anyone think to do this during a vigil of a murdered woman?
A Twitter user informed me that a Yoga instructor in Malahide also experience cyber-flashing while she was teaching an online class. She said on her Instagram that some man logged onto the Zoom using a fake email and then proceeded to masturbate in front of her clients. Cyber-flashing is a form of sexual harassment and should be treated as a crime.
Some of our laws are outdated, drafted in the 20th century, so obviously, they don’t cover anything to do with social media. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, is the closest law we have here. It was drafted to prevent cyberbullying and the sharing of nude images online of women without their consent passed quickly through the Dáil after an Only Fans leak. Opposition TDs attempted to have cyber-flashing added to this act, but the Department of Justice said that it would “create too much work for the Gardaí and that an amendment to the 1951 Post Office Act would cover these crimes”. An amendment has still not been added to the 1951 act.
Image-Based Sexual Abuse campaigner, Megan Sims, is determined to make cyber-flashing a criminal offence and many of us affected by the Zoom call are eager to help her. Already complaints have been made to the Gardaí about the man who hijacked the online vigil for Ashling Murphy. None of us want to see him get away with this crime.
Nobody should be subjected to this ever, especially when the Zoom call was intended to be a safe space for women to honour the memory of another woman. Some men think this is hilarious, and making cyber-flashing a criminal offence, will wipe those smirks off their faces.