A few months ago, I was waiting in a parked car for my friend to return from running a quick errand. A short distance away was another parked car, filled with boisterous teenage girls.
It was uncomfortable. They kept looking in my direction and giggling, making comments between themselves and laughing in response. I checked my reflection discreetly; did my hair look crazy? Was there something on my car? They even took a photo using an iPhone, at which point I decided to turn the other way and ignore them.
But the whole experience made me feel… uneasy.
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I have no idea if they were laughing at something to do with me, my car, or something else entirely, but for those few moments I felt deeply uncomfortable. Like my privacy had been violated. I was just sitting in my car and minding my own business, yet for all I had known, they could have taken photos of me and made fun of me all over social media.
This is exactly what happened to a woman showering at the gym a couple of years ago. Another gym-goer, Dani Mathers, took a photo of the 70-year-old woman showering and plastered it on SnapChat, with the incredibly thoughtless and humiliating comment: “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”
Dani claims that she had meant to send the photo to a friend, rather than posting it publicly for the world to see.
But the photo went viral, leaving the woman completely humiliated.
Dani’s thoughtless post impacted her modelling career, and she was even charged with Criminal Invasion of Privacy by the Los Angeles Police.
But I’m less interested in her story, and more interested in how the woman at the gym is faring. After all, she was just going about her day when her privacy was stripped from her.
Through her Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, she has finally spoken out.
“She wishes the whole chapter, this painful chapter, would close,” Feuer says. She wants to move on from “the impact of the photograph being taken and disseminated and what that’s meant to her as well as what it’s meant to hear that Ms. Mathers be held accountable for what she did”.
The woman has also sought restitution of about $US60 ($79), as she had to buy a new backpack. The one she had been using was depicted in the photo, and could identify her to other fellow gym-goers.
I’m really glad she hasn’t been identified – but I must admit, I’m worried that this isn’t going to be the last tale of this kind.