Women 'left feeling scared and angry' in new cyber flashing trend using AirDrop

Women have said they were left feeling scared, embarrassed and angry after being sent sexually explicit images by strangers while on a train.

Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 3:02 pm
Updated Friday, 6th March 2020, 9:46 am
What is cyber flashing?

Cyber-flashing is the the act of sending an unsolicited sexual image on an iPhone using file-sharing function AirDrop.

Due to the technology's short range, victims are often targeted on trains - meaning they could be in the same carriage as the perpetrator, who is often anonymous.

Judith Rita, 21, boarded a train at Finchley Road Station in north-west London last year when she received an AirDrop notification with a picture of a man's "genital area".

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"My initial reaction was fear mixed with disgust, why would someone do that?," the social media coordinator and photographer told the PA news agency.

"I hit decline straight away and tried to find the culprit, but the freakiest thing about it is that you don't know, as almost everyone is using their phone...at some point the thought occurred that whoever it was may not even know who they sent it to.

"I guess in that moment they had twisted my hand and forced me into embarrassment, despite me having no wrongdoing.

"I was just angry, annoyed and creeped out not knowing who was watching me."

Reports of cyber-flashing to British Transport Police (BTP) have almost doubled in a year, according to data obtained by PA, although officers believe the trend is going "largely unreported".

The 21-year-old did not report the incident to police as she said it happened "too quickly", adding: "Sadly, in this case, how would I even know who the offender is if I wanted to?"

Detective Inspector Ashley Cooper from BTP advises travellers change their AirDrop settings to only receive messages from people in their contacts list.

But one woman criticised the advice of changing your behaviour, claiming it is just "another thing that women are expected to do to feel safe".

She said being sent an inappropriate adult website on a train from Kings Cross to Leeds made her angry, and wishing she had been "braver" in tracking down the perpetrator.

"I wouldn't have reported it, because I actually didn't know it was the kind of thing you could report," the 29-year-old told PA.

"When a man masturbated in front of me from inside a restaurant I immediately reported him, but something about it being photos or videos makes it seem 'not as bad'.

"But it is just as bad. It's taking advantage of someone - he didn't even know if I was over 18. I'm glad I know I can report it now. I will if it happens again."