GARDAÍ have said they have yet to receive an official statement of complaint after a Limerick councillor alleged on Twitter they were sent an unsolicited photograph of an erect penis via a social media messaging app.
Cllr Elisa O’Donovan posted an edited version of the photograph which she allegedly received on her Twitter account and said: “Today was the start of my holidays and some recharge time. Unfortunately my day started with a WhatsApp message sent to my phone of a picture of an erect penis.”
The Independent city-based councillor said: “This is incredibly intrusive. Cyberflashing is an act of sexual violence and it shouldn’t be acceptable.”
Cllr O’Donovan told the alleged sender she was reporting the matter to the gardai: “This is disgusting and sexual abuse. Don’t send unsolicited sexual images to people you do not know. I am reporting this to the Guards.”
In a follow up message on her twitter feed, Cllr O’Donovan said that in her opinion, “the law and policing just has completely failed to keep up with sexual harassment and abuse online” and that “cyber flashing is a serious form of sexual intrusion, but like a lot of the harassment women experience online we are told to “ignore it””.
“I can’t unsee that awful image,” she added.
Others who saw Cllr O’Donovan’s post claimed such incidents were widespread.
“It came to my attention a few years ago when my daughter was a teenager. I couldn’t believe the amount of unsolicited male genitalia that herself and her friends were sent online. Unknown males just sending erect penis pics, no word messages, nothing. Any time of day. It’s vile,” commented one person.
“It’s been around a while though. There used to be this website where you could chat with people on camera and then move on to the next camera, but can’t remember what it was called, but literally every second cam had a fella with hhis mickey on show,” stated another.
Another replied: “This is despicable behaviour and no different to flashing in public and should be treated with equal seriousness.”
Cllr O’Donovan said she made a formal complaint to gardai: “As always in Henry Street they were very supportive and took this very seriously. It is an offence under section 45 of the criminal law act and they are following it up.”
Ms O’Donovan, who was first elected to Limerick City and County Council in 2019, said similar incidents have “been happening since I got elected really but I’ve only started highlighting it this year as ignoring it doesn’t make it stop.”
A Garda spokesman said: “Gardaí in Henry Street are investigating an alleged incident in which a person received an unwanted inappropriate image.”
“No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing,” they added.
In an updated statement, the spokesman said: “Gardaí in Henry Street received a report from a person who said they had been sent an unwanted inappropriate image. Gardaí carried out initial enquiries but a statement of complaint has not been made.”
Cllr O’Donovan could not be reached for comment.