Women’s Aussie rules football star Tayla Harris says she was “sexually abused” by online trolls making repulsive comments about a picture of the 21-year-old in action.
Photographer Michael Willson captured a particularly remarkable shot showing Harris in full swing having punted the ball at goal while playing for Carlton in an AFL women’s league game against the Western Bulldogs at the weekend.
The image was shared on social media by broadcaster the Seven Network, only to receive a torrent of abuse, much of which was sexual in nature.
The broadcaster took down the image in response, but merely set off a backlash against its own actions as well as the vicious trolls commenting on the image.
The Seven Network has since returned the image to its social media accounts, along with an apology for backing down in the face of online hatred.
Harris has said the comments she was subjected to amount to being “sexually abused” online.
“The comments I saw were sexual abuse, if you can call it that, because it was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable,”she said on a national radio show.
“That is what I would consider sexual abuse on social media.”
She posted a defiant tweet of the image along with the message: “Here’s a pic of me at work... think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.”
The post has been liked more than 46,000 times since being posted on March 19.
She also shared it on Instagram with the message: "My hamstring is ok but derogatory and sexist comments aren’t."
The row has drawn comment from government officials, with Federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer saying she was "disgusted" by the abuse Harris had received, while calling out the Seven Network over its response.
“We need to out these trolls. We need to out these people who would seek to make misogynist comments about women,” she said.
“I was pretty frankly disgusted by Channel Seven’s response in actually taking down her picture rather than dealing with the trolls,” O’Dwyer added.
The man behind the powerful snap, Willson, was among those to offer his support for Harris, posting a gif of the sequence of shots he took of the star forward, with the barb: “Take this, trolls.”
Harris is a tough customer on the football field but also in the boxing ring, where she boasts a record of four wins and one draw from her five fights.
Carlton beat the Bulldogs by three points on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 6,000 at Whitten Oval in the suburbs of Melbourne.