A number of young women in Seattle are saying they’ve been approached on Facebook by someone named “Deja Stwalley,” a woman claiming to be a porn scout trying to shepherd girls safely into the industry. Stwalley, the women say, told them that there’s potential to make a lot of money—but a private and un-filmed audition would be required first.
The Stranger compiled an extensive report and interviews with women who followed through on Stwalley’s proposal, eventually meeting a man named Matt Hickey, with her encouragement. Hickey is a photographer (he’s also written for our sister site Gizmodo) who Stwalley said would take pictures of the girls and then would have to have sex with them. One of Hickey’s alleged victims, Liz Shearer, says she was told the sex was necessary “to prove to production companies that having sex with someone I didn’t know was something that I could handle.”
Other women reported the same experience and explanation, either from Stwalley via Facebook message or Matt Hickey in person at their meeting. Stwalley herself was, as it happens, never available to speak via phone or webcam, but the women she contacted provided screenshots of their frequent Facebook conversations. In them, Stwalley is cheerfully upbeat about the obligation to have sex with a strange man for free in exchange for being shown to legitimate porn companies:
Stwalley: so here’s how the audition goes first we’ve got some questions we’ve gotta ask you on-the-record sexual history, make sure you’re legal, etc what you’re willing to do, not willing to do, etc then you do a little shoot with my photog hot newdz as they say then you bang down with one of our guys so we know you can do it and not freak out easy enough lol
Woman: Easy is banging the guy photographed or video taped
Stwalley: nope just to make sure you won’t see a dick and scream your head off lol i means you are good at banging, I hope
19-year-old Allysia Bishop was approached by Stwalley in 2013. She describes her encounter with Matt Hickey very like what Stwalley explained would happen above:
“He had a little checklist of things I was comfortable doing in the future, like are you fine with bondage, are you fine with whatever,” she tells me over the phone. Bishop also remembers Matt making vodka screwdrivers. “He checked a little checklist off and said fine, all right we’ll take some pictures. All the while, I was drinking. He was just making me more drinks and more drinks.”
Bishop says she drank so much that she nearly blacked out. And that’s when she claims that Matt said they had to have sex. “He was like, ‘Well, we have to have sex, because if we don’t then how am I going to know you’re for real and you’ll actually be able to do this in the industry? So you have to prove to me you’re not going to bail out.’”
Bishop says she left Matt Hickey’s apartment feeling violated and not really understanding why. That same day she slit her wrists in the bathtub. She’s recovered from her injury and has become determined to expose what she believes Hickey is doing via the false front of Deja Stwalley.
The Stranger discovered that there is a real Deja Stwalley, but she is not the woman contacting girls on Facebook. Her name is now Deja Cook, and she knew Matt Hickey in grade school. She’s angered that her name is being dragged into this situation, and she said of Hickey, “He had a weirdo crush on me.”
Both Shearer and Bishop have gone to the police about Deja Stwalley and Matt Hickey, filing reports with police who they feel aren’t taking the alleged crime seriously—basically because police don’t consider it a crime. However, both women maintain that what Hickey did to them was rape, as their consent was conditional upon an understanding of the encounter that had been deliberately falsified.
The Seattle Police Department has opened up several investigations on women’s complaints about Hickey, based on accounts from women who all interacted with Stwalley to some degree (though not all agreed to meet with Hickey). As The Stranger notes, there is little ground for a sexual assault case:
In Washington State, a charge of rape in the first degree requires “forcible compulsion,” meaning that the rapist uses or threatens use of a deadly weapon, kidnaps his victim, breaks in, or inflicts serious physical injury. Lack of consent, which the state defines as “actual words or conduct indicating freely given agreement,” enters the equation for rape only in the third degree.
Sex workers are amongst the most vulnerable to sexual assault, due to a lack of laws that protect them and the stigma attached to their work. Las Vegas defense attorney and former municipal court judge Dayvid Figler commented on the case, saying that there are ways to prosecute Matt Hickey for his alleged crimes, but:
“I think that you would probably have on some level a tough case because there is this stigma attached: ‘Oh, those stupid girls, they got what they deserved trying to get into a sleazy world,’” Figler says. “You’re dealing with public opinion about this sort of thing. But [allegedly], they were essentially raped. Their consent was based on a false premise.”
Shearer says that her experience with police left her feeling that they didn’t see her rape as a rape, but she’s now even more determined to push her case as far as it can go. She says, “My goals here are justice for me and everyone else who has been victimized, and education so that women know the dangers of what’s out there...I want to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”
Image via Flickr.