Her response to 'cyber bully' who threatened to release naked video? Go public

Ms Taruna Aswani received threats from a man to leak her nude images.
Ms Taruna Aswani received threats from a man to leak her nude images.PHOTO: TARUNA ASWANI/ FACEBOOK

Ms Taruna Aswani, 26, received an unwelcome email on Friday (Oct 21) morning at 9am from a man who called himself "Kevin John".

In the email, John claimed he had nude pictures and videos of Ms Aswani through accessing her Cloud data storage. She had meant for only her boyfriend of five years to view the images, reported the BBC.

"All I am saying," read the email threat from John, "is if you want me to keep quiet on this and let the world (social media, work place, family and friends) know, then you have to excite me." He went on to demand that Ms Aswani send him more intimate videos.

Ms Aswani, an Indian citizen working in the US state of Maryland as a physiotherapist, immediately filed an online complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) cybercrime department.

Before she got a response from FBI, John sent another email at 9pm in the evening on the same day with further threats. It contained a detailed list of all the contacts who would receive her images if she did not comply with his demand.

Ms Aswani decided to take a more drastic action.

"I couldn't just sit quiet and wait for someone to take action," Ms Aswani told BBC. "I had to do something myself! And soon. This guy was serious, and I had a deadline. With support from my boyfriend, I decided to go public with it."

In a public Facebook post, she made it clear that she would not give in to John's request. She also uploaded screenshots of his emails and his email address.

The post has since received more than 23,000 reactions and 4,500 shares.

"As embarrassing as the videos may be (they were sent to my boyfriend at the time) I choose to stand up to this man," Ms Aswani wrote in her post. "Instead of cowering down to his requests. I do this so that other women may take a lesson to stand up to bullies and low life's (sic) like this."

"In the beginning I was just standing up for myself and against cybercrime and extortion," Ms Aswani said to the BBC.

"But receiving so many messages from girls who've been in similar situations and just kept quiet about it, who are now drawing inspiration from my story, has made me realise I'm not just standing up for myself but for all the women who have been victimised by sick men like this and have been too scared to stand up for the fear of being judged by society."

While the majority of comments on Ms Aswani's post were positive, she said she did receive some negative ones.

Some, she says, have called her "a slut and some have gone to say I'm doing this for fame and publicity... For those who think I'm a slut for keeping pictures like that, I just want to say that it's completely normal.

"Especially if you're in a long-distance relationship, you do tend to share such material with your partner. It's neither unnatural nor uncommon. These people are the reason why most women keep quiet when shamed."

She added that she received the full backing of her boyfriend, her friends and her family based on Mumbai.

Ms Aswani's family did not question why she took the images in the first place, according to her.

"My parents were obviously panicking at first and felt helpless that they weren't physically with me to support and protect me, but they've been nothing but supportive throughout," she said to the BBC. "They realise how normal it is to take and share such pictures with your boyfriend."

She added that her parents' reaction is indicative of a more open India.

Both the Mumbai Police Department and the FBI cybercrime unit have been opened investigations into the identity of "Kevin John".

Ms Aswani said that since her Facebook post went viral, John has not been in touch.