The story, initially broken by New Matilda in August, yesterday took a new turn, as 25-year-old Zane Alchin appeared in court over the matter. Max Chalmers reports.
In the square waiting room at Newtown Local Court a group of young women are standing together, ready for the morning’s list to get underway.
Around them people are consulting with lawyers, taking advice on a smattering of driving offences, drug possessions, and the more serious allegations Magistrate Robert Williams will shortly sort through.
But one case in particular stands, and accounts for the small group of photographers huddled in the shade outside of the courthouse.
Earlier in the year an otherwise unspectacular interaction blew up after 23-year-old Olivia Melville was mocked on social media for referencing a sexually explicit lyric in her Tinder profile, the popular dating and hook-up app.
Sick of dual standards on sexual expression and the policing of women’s sexuality, friends of Melville took a stand, leaving comments defending their friend and shaming those who had first shamed her. Their objections were met with derision, followed by threats of sexual violence. They were graphic and repeated.
They were also documented by one of Melville’s friends, Paloma Brierley Newton, and taken to police.
At the time Brierley Newton was disappointed with the police response, and told New Matilda the officers seemed ill-equipped to deal with the evolving forms of harassment and gendered abuse women are receiving in the digital age. In a campaign launched as a result, the women collected 15,000 signatures and drew support from Federal MPs.
Their experience with police matched those observed by Dr Emma Jane, a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales running a three-year study into the online harassment of women.
“It’s widely acknowledged that the police are not doing enough to support the female targets of this abuse,” Dr Jane told New Matilda. “The platform managers [i.e. Facebook, Tinder, etc] themselves are not doing enough to tackle this abuse.”
Almost exactly two months later, the situation in this case has changed.
Yesterday afternoon 25-year-old Zane Alchin appeared in the Newtown Local Court, charged with using a carriage services to menace, harass, or offend.
Brierley Newton and Melville were both there, and joined their friends in occasionally peering around the room, trying to determine who the man charged might be. They’d never seen him in person before, but no one in the room quite fit the bill.
It wasn’t until court had been in session for some hours that Alchin arrived. Flanked by a group who appeared to be friends and family, he walked straight past Brierley Newton, Melville, and their gang of supporters to a seat further back in the room.
Tall and curly haired, Alchin sat still, facing forward but occasionally returning the stares of reporters sitting directly to his right.
When his name was finally called by Williams he stood, and his lawyer informed the court he had been brought in on the case only recently. He wanted more time, he said, but noted a guilty plea was likely to be entered.
And with that it was over. Alchin’s crew left the courtroom first, shortly followed by the group of young women, who stood out the front and discussed the day’s events.
They’ll be back again on December 8, when the matter returns to court.
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