AUC Student Receives Sexually Graphic Messages After Topless Protest

By Tamar Bot and Maxime Garcia Diaz —

After staging an action at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) Open Day on March 12th, where she distributed the latest issue of Folia while topless, second-year AUC student Matilda Medard has been receiving sexually graphic messages from strangers through email and Facebook. The Folia issue in question covered this year’s Boobie Bible, organized by FemCom for Women*’s Week, and featured a pair of bare breasts on the cover. Medard handed out the magazines to protest HvA’s decision to remove all copies of the Folia issue from several buildings for the Open Day. According to Jean Tillie, Dean of the faculty Maatschappij en Recht, the HvA feared that the cover would distract or deter prospective students.

Medard staged her action at the Kohnstammhuis as well as the Wibauthuis, the two faculties where Folia was banned. She had hardly any uncomfortable experiences during the protest itself, with most people approaching her out of curiosity or support for her action. “I was worried people would call me “slut”, I expected some kind of backlash in a way, but there wasn’t,” she said.

However, in the following days Medard began receiving private messages on her personal Facebook account. They were sent by strangers, almost exclusively male, and ranged from “Hi” to people asking for her phone number or commenting on her breasts. In total she received 36 private Facebook messages and one e-mail sent to her personal e-mail address. The e-mail, sent on Friday, March 18th, was more sexually graphic than the Facebook messages, saying in Dutch: “Nice tits, do you wanna jerk me off so I can jizz on your breasts?”

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The next day, Medard posted a status to her personal Facebook timeline, with screenshots of the Facebook messages and email attached. “It’s hard to explain how hurt and unsafe I feel,” Medard wrote in the post. “I am scared by this person’s ability to have found my email address, and the sick dedication they had to send me a message like this one.”

In the comment sections of news articles covering her protest, many people also expressed their opinions on her body. “I expected people to make comments on my body in open platforms but I didn’t expect to get private messages,” she told The Herring. “They felt very invasive.” After receiving the email, Medard said, “it kind of hit me that all the other ones were really bad too. I tried to ignore them, but this one made me think, if people would say this to me in the street it would be sexual harassment.”

Medard visited the Balistraat police station that Friday night to report the e-mail. According to her, she was told the police couldn’t do anything because the message was sent anonymously. “I know you can track someone from their email address and they were like, yeah, we do that for murderers or thefts or something more important,” she said. Her reply to the email, asking for the sender’s name, was met with an empty email with several pictures of a penis attached. She returned to the police station the following morning with the screenshots of the private Facebook messages, and was again told nothing could be done: “He [the police officer] told me I couldn’t file a complaint because the messages were not insults or stalking.” According to Medard, the police officer told her that because she had appeared topless in public, “it’s normal that this happens, and even though it should be condemned I should still expect it in a way.”

Medard encountered this kind of reaction more than once. “Some people told me I could have expected this. That’s fucking bullshit. Having freedom of speech doesn’t mean you’re allowed to say anything you want,” she said.

According to Nabil Ou-Aissa, spokesperson for the Amsterdam police, the police is unable to respond because sending such messages is not an illegal act. Ou-Aissa said they advised Medard to return to the police as soon as she received multiple messages from one and the same person, after having indicated she did not wish to receive them. This would qualify as stalking, which is illegal.

Medard expressed frustration over the fact the police couldn’t do anything for her. “Having a legal institution back you up is really important,” she said. She chose to share her experiences on Facebook on Saturday March 19th, she said, “first of all because the police was really unhelpful. My hope was that the police would at least record it — they were like, ‘have a nice day and change your Facebook account’. Second thing is, I feel like people feel we’re in a post-sexist world, where people are not still sexually harrassed, and I want to show that that’s not true.”

Ou-Aissa said the police does not have a clear record of how often similar complaints are filed. They encourage anyone experiencing something like this to report it at all times, so the police can evaluate whether the nature of received messages can be identified as illegal.

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4 thoughts on “AUC Student Receives Sexually Graphic Messages After Topless Protest

  1. I think it would’ve made more sense if she covered her face thoroughly but left the boobs. For several reasons.

    Like

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