A Sydney personal trainer claims a trip to the beach has had a “profoundly detrimental effect” on her mental health after photos of her sunbathing topless were shared by a group of men.
Lily Cook has taken to social media to share what she describes as “a moment in my life that will haunt me forever".
On Saturday November 12, Ms Cook and her sister were at a beach in the city’s eastern suburbs when she noticed three men, two of whom she knew socially and had mutual friends with. Soon after their girlfriends joined them.
“I always tan topless,” Ms Cook said on Instagram, “but I didn’t feel comfortable due to my preconceived opinions of them. After delaying almost an hour to remove my top, it seemed they were preparing to leave so I finally removed it".
It wasn’t until that night when Ms Cook received a message asking if she had been topless at the beach that day, along with a close-up image of her, she realised a photo had been taken without her consent and distributed.
Men ‘tried to dodge responsibility’
The next morning, she messaged the two men and their girlfriends, who were at the beach, in a group message.
“I asked them to delete the photo and to stop sharing it,” she explained. “None of the men replied to the group message, and only one of their girlfriends replied, explaining that there has been a misunderstanding and that the photo was a wider “landscape photo” posted as an Instagram story of the beach by one of their friends that were with them that day.
“The males obfuscated and tried to dodge responsibility by claiming the photo was cut from a bigger Instagram story and therefore, not a gross violation of my privacy.”
But Ms Cook says that was a lie. “In the photo from the Instagram story my sister and I are both lying down,” she said. “In the photo I received on Saturday night that was distributed to others, my sister is sitting upright. Due to the quality of the image and angle, it was clear one of the males had snuck closer to me to get a close-up photo of me topless.”
Finally, she says one of the men confessed that he got the photo from his friend’s phone and distributed it, but he has refused to make a statement to police.
Police unable to help
Ms Cook has since reported the matter to police but was told nothing could be done.
It is “generally not an offence” to take a photograph of any person in a public place, police told the Daily Telegraph. “There are offences relating to intimate images, but they relate to images taken in a private setting,” a senior officer said
Ms Cook said she’s been let down.
“Not only is this behaviour disappointing, it’s disgusting, perverted and juvenile,” she wrote on Instagram. “Despite confessing, he (nor anyone else involved) has not apologised.”
"So whilst my emotions may fade and my anger and sadness reduce as I move on with my life. I will never, ever let you forget what you did. Sorry boys, it’s now your time.”
Describing the capture and distribution of explicit images of a woman without her knowledge or consent as “abhorrent and illegal”, Ms Cook says she is standing up to this issue and choosing to share her story after too many women confided in her that they have suffered similar experiences.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.