Dozens of female University of Miami medical students believe a classmate has been stealing their photos from Facebook and social media and uploading them to sexual fetish websites.
Their car selfies, pics with friends at bars and the beach, even images of them in their graduation gowns have been copied and uploaded to foot-fetish fan sites and even just sites for men who masturbate while viewing images of everyday women — while sometimes photographing themselves doing so. The posts apparently identified the UM women by name, and included lewd captions, some seemingly threatening rape.
The suspected classmate accused of stealing these pics and uploading them to fetish sites is a 25-year-old UM medical student who has been suspended and is now the subject of an internal school investigation. The scandal came to light last week when at least two victims discovered their own photos on the websites and filed for restraining orders against the man.
The man’s behavior was apparently known to the school and classmates.
In a court filing, one student said she complained to the university several times since December 2015 about his “repeated acts of stalking and harassment” and of him taking unauthorized photos of her at a bar. A sexual harassment complaint was filed against the man in April 2016, and UM ordered him to stay away from her, although he was allowed to remain in school, according to her request for a restraining order.
Miami-Dade courts last week issued temporary restraining orders mandating the man keep away from the two women.
The medical school, citing federal laws protecting student privacy, declined to address questions about the man. “It is also our commitment to thoroughly investigate and adjudicate any allegations of inappropriate behavior among our students, while at the same time providing a safe atmosphere as an inquiry moves forward,” according to a statement released by the school.
One of the victims has notified the the State Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing the matter.
But making the case that the postings constitute a crime under state or federal law could be difficult. Why? The photos were posted on bulletin-board type websites that cater to foot fetishes and a niche sometimes known as “creep shots,” in which users fantasize or sexualize photos taken in public places. The problem in cases like these is that photos of the UM students were first published on social media by the women themselves – then co-opted into sexual fantasies.