Megan Sims helped to shut down one online forum where 500 users had shared over 11,000 images
A 24-year-old woman whose pictures were included in a massive leak of intimate images has said “someone will end up dead” if the Government does not take action.
Megan Sims, from Limerick, has been campaigning against image-based abuse since her pictures were shared without her consent in 2016. Ms Sims was 19 at the time.
Her pictures were included in megafiles leaked online which included tens of thousands of pictures of Irish women. It emerged this week that anonymous forums, including hundreds of Irish men, were sharing and trading the pictures. Some images are understood to feature underage girls, while in others women appear to have been photographed without their knowledge.
In one instance, around 500 accounts were banned from a platform after they were caught posting sexual images without women’s consent. The scale of the problem has prompted cross-party calls to make sharing pictures without consent a criminal offence.
Ms Sims was the first one to uncover the megafiles of pictures of Irish women, and she was been working with the Victims Alliance to find and alert those affected.
“It is so bad. I have never seen anything of this scale. Some women seem to have had no idea that pictures were even taken of them, there are photos of women getting changed in changing rooms,” Ms Sims told the Irish Independent.
“Some of those images were some of the worst things I’ve ever seen, I think I’ll need therapy after this. This is a crime on women. The fact that there are thousands of men in this country sharing these out is shocking. I honestly don’t care about my pictures, they’ve been out there for so long now. I’m more focused on the other victims.”
Ms Sims helped to shut down one forum which had 500 users contributing to a megafile with over 11,000 images, many of Irish women. But she said that when one forum is closed down “three more pop up”.
Another file had over 100,000 images, though some were duplicates or multiple pictures of the same women. Ms Sims and other women who have spoken out against the leak have since been targeted with threats, while other women have had to close down their social media accounts after anonymous men threatened to find and leak their images.
“Someone will end up dead. Someone is going to die if they don’t take action. The internet is not a safe place to be a woman right now,” Ms Sims said.
“This should be a crime. It shouldn’t be left to us to try to get these pictures taken down. I have never seen an outpouring like this before over image-based abuse. The Government must take action, now.”
She called on political parties to amend and strengthen a bill making its way through the Dáil which would make sharing images without consent a criminal offence. She said she wanted politicians to make sure that those involved in the leak which emerged this week would be prosecuted under any new law. Ms Sims said she had seen evidence that men were targeting Irish women because they knew there was no legislation to protect them.
“I’ve been in UK-based forums where lads are saying ‘any pictures of Irish girls? They can’t do anything’,” Ms Sims said.
“Once people realise the scale of this, I think they will be shocked. I think we will never truly know how big this is.”
Ms Sims has set up a petition calling for image-based abuse to be banned, which at the time of publication had attracted almost 50,000 signatures. Support for the petition had doubled in less than a day.