National 11.9.2016 10:16 am

Margaret van Wyk says she forgives WhatsApp humiliators

PHOTO: AFP.

PHOTO: AFP.

The woman from the quiet town of Schweizer-Reneke, North West, whose private picture went viral, just wants to get on with her life.

In an interview with You magazine, the woman who trended overnight on social media after a picture she accidentally sent to a school WhatsApp group says she does not want revenge on the person who humiliated her.

The 46-year-old mother of three said she didn’t know who was responsible for sharing the image and didn’t really want to know. She said that, as a Christian, she could not subscribe to the notion of an eye for an eye. She didn’t even expect an apology.

The interview with Margaret van Wyk in You magazine.

The interview with Margaret van Wyk in You magazine.

Van Wyk sent a saucy, intimate picture of herself to a school hockey group, which she had intended for her husband. She apologised and the group seemed to accept it, only for it to be shared weeks later as a screen grab on social media, dragging her family into weeks of public madness.

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She said that the person who had shared it would have to live with their own guilty conscience from now on. She reasoned that it could even have been a “child” who shared the picture, and she wouldn’t want to ruin a young person’s life.

The small town’s residents have rallied behind her, showing her plenty of goodwill.

According to a legal expert, Margaret van Wyk had the option of laying charges against the thousands of people who reshared the picture, as they had all technically acted as cyberbullies. A media expert from Shepstone & Wylie, Verlie Oosthuizen, said that the person or people who reposted her accidentally sent message could face liability under the law, as they had “definitely infringed her dignity … and her privacy”.

He said that, had it been him, he would have approach the police and laid a charge of crimen injuria “against the person who made the initial posting”. However, it would not necessarily have stopped there alone, as the thousands of people who subsequently reshared it could also have faced charges, though “down the chain it becomes less and less strong”.

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He added that it would then also drag out the matter and keep Van Wyk in the media spotlight for longer than she might have liked, however.

The law makes it clear that if you republish any statement or image that is slanderous, libellous or otherwise unconstitutional, you can still be held accountable for that, even though the publication of the content is second-hand.

However, added Oosthuizen, the strongest claim would have been against “the initial people that posted the picture”.

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