‘I googled myself and found I had been photoshopped onto porn’ – Hack


Noelle Martin was a 17-year-old law student in Perth when she discovered she was also the face of hundreds of porn images.

A reverse image search revealed her head had been photoshopped many times onto the bodies of naked women in various sexual poses and situations. One image featured a woman wearing a top with the slogan ‘I am a dumb cow’. The doctored images were on the cover of two adult movies, one of which had the words ‘Treat me like a whore’ on the front.

She did not know who had done this, or why they had targeted her. She only knew that she wanted to get those images taken down immediately.

This week, Noelle, who is now 23 and graduated from law school, was named the Western Australia Young Australian of the Year, in recognition of her advocacy for image-based abuse laws.

“This is part of an insidious culture where so many ordinary people are being targeted – the difference for me is I found out,” she told Hack.

“That’s the danger – so many people are being victimised by this. I don’t know if they will ever know or if they will find out and it’s too late.

“It’s happening on a mass scale.”

Interior mid shot of a young woman in a pink sparkly top.

This picture of Noelle Martin was used to create a pornographic image.

Blurred image of Noelle Martin's head superimposed on a blurred body.

An image of Noelle Martin posted on social media was photoshopped into a pornographic image.

Six years ago, when she first encountered the photos, she contacted police. She learned there were no laws on the books to help her, and that, in any case, these sites were hosted overseas and therefore out of Australia’s jurisdiction.

“I was effectively told I would have to contact the sites and the webmasters to try and get everything deleted,” she said.

“I spent years having to spend university breaks just contacting these dodgy sites sending them standardised messages saying I did not consent to having my images featured in such a way, delete them immediately.

“That was the process, and the more I would send requests like that the more I would discover new sites. They images would actually pop up again weeks later.”

“It was just like a never-ending battle trying to get things deleted. It was just proliferating beyond my control.”

A breakthrough

And so she hit upon a new tactic: speaking out and advocating for law reform.

“I’d just had enough of fighting by myself,” Noelle said.

“I spoke out and got a lot of hate. It was horrific the amount of hate I got from the public they called me slut, whore, ugly, attention-seeking.”

“That was very difficult for me to deal with but I knew what they were doing was wrong and I did not accept that this is going to be a norm in society.”

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Noelle Martin

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Noelle Martin.

She contacted her state and federal MPs and create online petitions, but these failed to get more than a few hundred signatures.

But a breakthrough came in 2016, when the story of her fight ran on ABC’s 7.30 program.

Noelle happened to be speaking out as stages and territories were grappling with how to legislate to protect victims of revenge porn.

In most of these cases, the images are typically nudes sent to a man and then shared with a wider audience without the women’s consent.

Noelle’s case was different, and she campaigned to have the new revenge porn legislation include doctored and altered images.

In May this year, NSW became the first Australian jurisdiction to explicitly address the proliferation of ‘altered images’.

The maximum jail sentence is three years and a fine of $11,000.

“I was mentioned in [parliament] and I stood with the New South Wales Attorney-General at a press conference announcing these laws,” Noell said.

“Since then the ACT and WA have also had focus on altered images – pretty much exactly the same as New South Wales did.”

“I ended up standing with the Western Australian Attorney-General at the announcement of the Bill to criminalise this issue.”

‘I will never see justice’

Despite her success with law reform, Noelle believes she will not get justice. To this day, she does not know why the perpetrators chose her photos.

Although the laws are a step in the right direction, they aren’t much good for prosecuting people who are based overseas.

“This is an inherent problem for every single country trying to tackle this issue. This is a borderless crime – it’s a global issue,” she said.

“The issue for Australia and the world is trying to figure out a way and have countries collaborate and have a global response.

“I think that’s something Australia should be focusing on.

“I don’t think I’ll ever find who the perpetrators are and I don’t think they will ever be punished while they’re sitting behind the keyboard trying to ruin my life.”





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