KZN woman tells of horrific ordeal after explicit photos are ‘catfished’
Durban - Thousands of pornographic photographs and videos, including those of girls as young as 14, are being circulated on Durban WhatsApp and Telegram groups by “slut shamers” or salacious men.
That was the shock finding for Salona Govender, 27, from KwaDukuza, when she tracked down nude pictures of herself, which were originally shared with someone she thought was a Facebook friend.
On Friday, Govender said she wanted to speak out about her ordeal, which has lasted for nearly a year, to warn other women of the trauma they could face by sharing intimate pictures.
“I admit I did send some nude pictures to this person on Facebook last March, just before my birthday,” said Govender, adding that now she suspected she was “catfished” - when the profile of a person could have been faked.
“Whomever then sent those pictures to the guy I was dating.
“He called me and asked me what was going on. It was my birthday, I had been out having fun with my friends, but I felt terrible.
“My mood completely changed, I ended up just crying,” she said, adding the relationship ended that night.
“A couple of weeks later, a friend called and said the pictures were going viral on Twitter. I’m not on Twitter and I felt there was nothing I could do.”
Govender said she felt relieved when it all appeared to die down.
But then in August, the same pictures were sent to her family and ex-husband.
Again she felt helpless.
“I had gone to the police to report it, but they said I needed solid proof,” she said.
Last week, the photos appeared again, this time on Telegram and WhatsApp groups.
“I downloaded Telegram and my friend sent me the link to join the group.
“I joined all these groups pretending to be a guy. There were thousands of pictures of girls being exposed on this Telegram group, some look about 14 or 15 (years old). I think it was a Durban-based group and there seemed to be a lot of naming and shaming, it’s called ‘slut shaming’,” she said.
“My pictures were decent compared with what I saw on some of those groups, there are videos of girls, it’s such exploitation.”
Govender said she tried to expose the Telegram group, but then last Friday two fake Facebook profiles in her name appeared, offering sexual services and providing her cellphone number.
“People were messaging me about these fake profiles and I felt I had lost control of the situation, I was getting up to 200 calls a day,” said Govender, who approached security company Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) for help.
“I heard they had dealt with similar cases.
“On Thursday night a police officer contacted me and I’m going to the police station on Monday.”
Govender said she wanted to go public to warn other women.
“When that first picture was leaked, it was very traumatising, I locked myself in my room.
“But I have learnt to deal with the fact I couldn’t change what happened.
“I felt very alone and no one really knew how it affected me.
“There are people out there taking advantage of girls, I want them to know they can come out and speak about this. I won’t stop until I’ve cleared my name,” Govender said.
On Thursday, Rusa reported Govender’s ordeal on its Facebook page which has received thousands of comments, negative and positive.
“It was only on Thursday night when I sat down and checked Facebook that I saw all the comments.
There were negative and positive comments, but I was literally flooded on Facebook messenger from people who were willing to help me,” she said.
Social media lawyer Sarah Hoffman said according to the new Publications and Films Act, sharing intimate photographs or videos without permission of the person in the image or video on any social media platform was a criminal offence.
“Offenders can face up to three years in prison or a fine of R400000.
“Unfortunately, using private photos to get revenge is often a common modus operandi of an aggrieved partner and anonymity online is a huge challenge.
“I’m hoping law enforcement will streamline their processes as this is clearly criminal activity,” said Hoffman.
KwaZulu-Natal SAPS media did not respond to a request for comment.Independent On Saturday