A CRYSTAL Palace star has told of having her life ruined when naked pictures were posted online – and male footballers shared them in group chats.
Footballer Leigh Nicol has joined a campaign against “revenge porn” after having nude images of her shared on an adult site.
Leigh, who recently retired after playing for south London club Palace since 2020, has begun work with a helpline for other victims.
Scottish youth international Leigh took a year out of the game as she struggled with her mental health following her online ordeal.
She discovered in spring 2019 how graphic imagery of her had been posted on the internet.
Footage from 2014, when she was 18, was leaked online following an iCloud hack.
Read More On Women’s Football
Leigh, now 28, has spoken about the hidden “scars” she still feels.
The Devon-based Revenge Porn Helpline was set up in 2015, the year sharing explicit pictures without the subject’s consent became illegal.
Staff there have received more than 10,000 phone calls and online reports in the first nine months of this year – 31 per cent up on the same period in 2022, Sky News reported.
Leigh has been working with the helpline teams to raise awareness of the dangers, giving talks to their staff as well as fellow footballers across the UK.
She was alerted by a message on Instagram revealing footage of her having sex with an ex-partner had been uploaded to adult site PornHub.
The explicit video was removed after Leigh sent “numerous emails”, but only after at least one video had trended across the X-rated website’s top three.
It was also downloaded and posted elsewhere online.
She has now said of getting the Instagram alert: “That was a night from hell – I didn’t sleep, I was being sick, while waiting for the police to turn up in the morning.
“I lost my privacy in a click of a finger – that is something I’ll never get back.
“It changed my life – I’m much more educated on this issue now but I’ve got scars that people will never see.”
I know what went on in their group chats – I know how I was spoken about
She has admitted feeling suicidal and suffering panic attacks.
She previously said: “I still suffer with anxiety, I still have moments where I cannot get out of bed.
“It could be something so stupid that triggers me and puts me in a bad place again.”
And she told last year of knowing how she was being disrespected by male footballers after the footage “went all over the websites, it was all over WhatsApp chats”.
She told Sky Sports: “I have friends in the men’s game so I know what went on in their group chats – I know how I was spoken about. That was not nice.
“So I would not say that I had initial support from the male footballing world but I also know they did not mean any harm by it, they were just being lads.
“Those lads need educating to understand that I am not a porn star. I did not want my videos out there.”
Leigh has also played for Reading, Barnet’s London Bees, Millwall Lionesses and Charlton Athletic, after coming through youth academies at Celtic and Arsenal.
She has described herself as “grateful” to Palace for their backing during her ordeal, saying: “They have supported me as a human being.”
Professor Clare McGlynn, who specialises in violence against women and girls, said too many people were unaware “just how harmful intimate image abuse is”.
And she said: “Since the pandemic, we have seen even greater use of smartphones and the internet, which means taking and sharing intimate videos without concern is far easier than it ever has been.”
Other victims include former reality TV star Georgia Harrison, whose ex Stephen Bear was jailed for 21 months after sharing a secret sex tape of the pair.
A Netflix documentary called The Most Hated Man On The Internet told how American author Charlotte Laws helped bring down serial revenge porn offender Hunter Moore.
There have also been increasing warnings about sick trolls using deepfake technology to create phony nude images and footage of people – with Noelle Martin, in Australia, among those targeted.
The British Twitch star known as Sweet Anita, born in East Anglia, has also suffered.
Contact the Samaritans
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.
They are available for free at anytime.