Women are being urged to come forward to police if they think they have been exploited on a recently shut down Facebook page.

The Dunedin-focussed "Rack Appreciation Society" page which included explicit pictures of female University of Otago students without their permission was shut down following complaints to Rape Crisis and the university.

If any woman's image had been stolen or placed on the site, or had been taken without their consent, they were encouraged to make contact with police, said relieving Area Commander Inspector Mel Aitken.

"Each case would be assessed on an individual basis to ascertain whether an offence had occurred.


"These kinds of sites are not necessarily unlawful but we do appreciate that they can cause significant upset and social harm."

While sharing an image without a person's consent may not be unlawful, the content of the photograph and the circumstances in which it was taken would determine whether the publication of the image would be classified as an offence under the Indecent Publications Act, Ms Aitken said.

"We appreciate that for the women involved this is a very upsetting experience."

This afternoon, Otago's vice-chancellor said the incident had "sullied" the 145 year-old institution's reputation.

Wellington Rape Crisis yesterday criticised the university for not taking "proactive steps" to protect students from sexual abuse.

The university today warned any students found breaching its ethical behaviour policy could face possible suspension, fines or expulsion.

Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said a minority of students had cast aspersions on their peers.

"While it appears that a small number of this Facebook group were actively engaged in posting private photos of women without the women's knowledge or permission, all of those who supported this group in any way should reflect on the hurt and humiliation that they have been party to, through this site," Prof Hayne said.

Prof Hayne said the incident highlighted "a serious social issue around the objectification and degradation of women in New Zealand society and via social media in particular".

Ms Aitken said if women have concerns about any images that may have been placed on the site they should contact Sergeant Janelle Tait at Dunedin police.

- additional reporting John Weekes