Slutshaming: A life ruined and a path to sex work

3 minute read

I was recently asked to do a talk on privacy & security for the local sex work industry. I asked what they were interested in, and it was mostly centered around doxxing, and how to avoid it. At the end of the talk, I gave out my business cards and suggested people reach out if they have any specific questions. One young woman told me what I feel is a tragic story, and I hope sharing it we can come up with a solution.

As the story was told to me, this young woman lived in another city in Canada, and was working an office job as an admin assistant. She had an older co-worker who really didn't like her, and started making unprofessional comments, such as that our victim, let's call her Jo, couldn't possibly afford the designer handbag she wore to work. Jo said to her co-worker it was none of her business, but if she must know, her handbags meant a lot to her, and that's what she choose to save her money up to buy. The harassment continued. One day, the harasser "accidentally" sent an interoffice email with a link to a article which was slut shaming Jo, using pictures from Jo's instagram (nothing nude, one pic was in a gym working out, I've seen the article). But it also made several allegations about Jo, including her full name, and the city in which she lived.

Jo was furious, and called the police, who allegedly told her there was nothing they could do, as it was a cybercrime. A couple days later, Jo was called into the office, not the harasser, and was let go from her employer. Not sure what to do, she tried to apply for other jobs for over a year, but any web search by future employers would being up this article making allegations as to promiscuous behaviour. After over a year of trying to find a job she felt defeated and moved here to Vancouver, in the process legally changing her name so she could move on. The issue now, was she has no employment history with this new name, and so for over a year couldn't find work here -- and in a desperate state for income, has recently entered into the sex work industry for lack of other options.

She told this to me with an almost void emotion, stating that it'd taken her 2 years to get over that article which was still there, but she was grateful for me just listening. I told her I would look into it, and see what I could do.

I've provided her three solutions thus far, hopefully helpful for anyone reading this who may have had their life ruined by or another slutshaming website.

  1. File a DMCA complaint:
    I would create a new email address just for this, in case they try to
    shame you with it -- but if they did, the lawyers in the next step
    would have even more recourse. I think this is likely your cheapest and
    fastest to try to get started
  2. A followup, or separate option is to reach out to a lawyer like this and ask
    them what they charge to have your article removed:
  3. As this happened in Canada, file a privacy related complaint against
    If it happened in BC:
    If it happened in AB:
    If it happened in other provinces (other than QC):
    The advantage of going down this route, is it could set a
    precedent to get the slutshaming website itself blocked provincially or federally, not just your article removed, so it would fix
    the issue systematically, and for others. The privacy commissioners may also choose to investigate who was responsible for posting it.

I'm writing this with the hopes that as these paths are tried, one of them will be found successful, or someone who has had success will list it here as a comment for others. The other intention is to raise awareness for anyone interested in going after this website systematically, as having just heard one silent story, it makes me wonder how many other lives have been ruined.

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