Like most of us, Maya Kaminsky frequently shares photos of herself with friends and family on the social website Facebook. “It’s just how we keep in touch, you know? I never really thought about privacy settings or anything,” she said ruefully, “Who cares about other people’s vacation pictures? My mom only ‘likes’ them to be nice.”
She’s charming and funny and has quirky smile and pouting lips and sea green eyes, and if Kaminsky were a lesbian, this reporter would totally ask her out, but her Facebook status says she’s in a relationship with “Chad Barnett.” Over lattes in one of Chicago’s trendier rosteries, Maya Kaminsky tells me how her digital world came crashing down.
“The first thing that happened, I started getting all these friend requests from people I didn’t know. I thought, like, I’d gone viral on something, but I couldn’t figure out what. I was flattered.”
Then the messages started: a barrage of abuse, Maya’s face photoshopped onto porn scene gang bangs, even death threats. “I had no idea where it was coming from. I was really scared, you know? Like, all these strangers on the internet hated me and I didn’t know why.”
What happened, Kaminsky discovered, when a Good Samaritan sent her a tip complete with hyperlinks via an anonymous mail relay, was an outspoken and controversial feminist blogger “Vagina Dentata” had taken Kaminsky’s photos wholesale from Facebook and had, for months, been posting them to Tumblr, Blogger, and Twitter pretending they were photos of herself.
Kaminsky discovered photos of her trip to Paris, making cupcakes with her nephews, even attending her best friend’s wedding, had all become part of “Vagina Dentata’s” online life.
A picture of Kaminsky, slender and doe-like, her ample bosom perky in a strapless burgundy bridesmaid dress, smiling with her cornsilk hair in a half updo, is captioned: Participating in the outdated patriarchal ceremony of marriage, with a smile no less! The things I do for my girlfriends!
But what attracted the ire was not cheeky captions on stolen photos. It was anti-patriarchy rhetoric “Vagina Dentata” posted on her blog. The first clue toward the origin of the abuse directed at Kaminsky can be traced back to the comments of a November 2013 blog post by “Vagina Dentata” titled, “The MRA can lick my fat, hairy pussy!” which went on to dissect the hypocrisy of the so called Men’s Rights movement at length. Buried in the response to that inflammatory (though totally correct) blog post was a comment by someone called “Joe Plumber” that said, “I’ve seen ur face, bitch. U cunt hide b-hind a fake name 4ever!”
Facing a growing flood of abuse and threats, Kaminsky contacted Facebook. “I thought they could, you know, help me somehow, but they just sent me a link to the FAQ on privacy controls.”
Tears rise in her beautiful eyes, the ones that remind this reporter of the spring break she spent topless on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. “I felt like they betrayed me, you know? Like if you can’t trust Facebook to protect you….” Her pain is real.
That was when Kaminsky turned to law enforcement for help. “It was so hard,” she said, “I could see they didn’t take me seriously, like, I was so violated by this person who just took my life, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Nobody would help me.”
It seemed the police had no idea what to do about “Vagina Dentata’s” appropriation of Kaminsky’s photos. “One officer said maybe I should send a DMCA, but, like, how am I supposed to do that? I don’t know what that is. Why can’t the police do it?”
If there was one bright side to the terrible experience, it was that Kaminsky met the man she calls “the love of her life.” Detective Chad Barnett was assigned to her case when she first reported the threats. “He fought for me, you know?” she told this reporter. When Kaminsky speaks of Barnett her alto voice gets husky and her pupils dilate and a dreamy, far away look comes over her porcelain face that makes this reporter dampen her panties.
“If it weren’t for Chad, I don’t know what I’d have done. He was there for me when I really needed somebody. He’s amazing.”
When asked what she hopes to gain from sharing her story, Maya Kaminsky said, “I hope maybe those jerks messaging me will realize I’m not this ‘Vagina Dentata’ person. I totally hate her too!”
This reporter contacted the Everett Police to find out what progress had been made on Kaminsky’s case. “It’s the most bizarre case of identity theft we’ve ever seen,” an officer in the identity fraud department told this reporter, on the condition of anonymity. “Really, what’s the point?”
When pressed about if they had located “Vagina Dentata” and whether charges would be filed, the unnamed officer said, “I’m not sure what we’d even charge her with.”