Gina Martin, a freelance writer from London, found herself being a victim of a crime known as “upskirting”.
When a man took an upskirt photograph of Gina Martin at a music festival last month, she went straight to the police. But she was amazed to discover that there is no specific law against “upskirting” in most of the UK – only in Scotland. After the police closed her case, Gina began a petition to get it reopened, and now she is lobbying for a change in the law.
When someone takes a picture up your skirt, it is a form of sexual harassment that has been enabled largely thanks to smartphones, yet it is not a crime. Ms. Martin told TSGMAX how she hopes to be able to change that.
Gina Martin, herself a victim of sexual harassment, is calling for people who take pictures up ladies’ skirts to be placed on the sexual offenders register.
💕Looking for women to share their stories of seeing/experiencing upskirting with me (in confidence) to help this campaign. Email in bio ❤️
— Gina Martin (@beaniegigi) August 15, 2017
Martin’s article about her experience struck a chord with many of you. We asked readers to tell us if they had been the victim of upskirting, and whether the perpetrator was punished.
Here are some of your stories – names have been changed.
“I was at the bus stop”
It happened four years ago, when I was 17. It was a warm spring day and I was wearing a floral dress. I was waiting for the bus to go to college at 9:00 in the morning on a busy main road.
A man walked up to the bus stop and came and sat down next to me, and then started moving closer towards me. I was aware something wasn’t quite right, but every time I turned around he pretended to be looking out towards the road where the bus was coming from.
You don’t always have the confidence to say something, so I stood up and walked away.
But when I turned around to look at him he was holding up his mobile phone. It was a video of my bum – he had been trying to video up my dress. He was showing me, as if he was proud of it, and he was touching himself at the same time.
My initial reaction was: “That needs to be deleted, I need to get hold of that phone.” I got angry.
I said: “Give me that now, you need to delete that.” And he ran off. I chased him but he was too fast. Then it dawned on me what had just happened – the seriousness of it, and the intrusion of my personal space. I was very upset.
A man who had been driving past in a van stopped and came over. Traffic was slow and he said he’d got a good look at the man running off. The police came and took a statement and I went home – I didn’t make it into college that day.
The police asked for the outfit that I was wearing on that day, and I went in to make a formal statement at the station. A female officer interviewed me, but I felt like it wasn’t serious enough, and that I shouldn’t be there.
When I was asked to identify the man from pictures I really struggled – none of them looked like the image I had in my head. I thought: “What if I don’t recognise him and then he does it again?”
I was told afterwards that the witness had picked a different person to me. I don’t know if he was arrested.
I still live here but I’ve never gone back to that bus stop. I found different routes to college. I’m still incredibly cautious of people when I’m on my own. People tell you not to walk home alone at night – but this happened in broad daylight, so should we just never go anywhere on our own? That’s ridiculous. But that’s how it made me feel.
I can’t believe that upskirting doesn’t fall into some sort of category like sexual harassment or sexual assault. It’s a violation of personal space – they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it just because we don’t have a law against it. Debbie, 21
“My pupils upskirted me”
I teach in a secondary school. A few years ago I was called to a meeting together with some of my female colleagues and we were told that some pupils were being kept out of class because they had been caught using phone cameras to look up teachers’ skirts.
They’d been working as a team – one pupil would call the teacher over to ask a question, and while she was leaning over the table or otherwise engaged in answering that question somebody else would kick the phone across the floor while it was filming – then they were taking stills from the film and uploading them on the internet.
It was horrific and quite upsetting – as you can imagine we had a thousand questions, like: “Can you see anything in these pictures?” But we were not allowed to see them. I don’t think you could, because most of us wear tights, but the point is that these 13-year-old kids thought that that was an acceptable thing to do.
The boys were kept out of school for a couple of weeks, and when they came back we were expected to carry on teaching them.
I wasn’t remotely happy with the way the school handled it. I felt like I’d been a victim of a crime, and my main problem was that I didn’t feel it had been recognised in that way, and I wasn’t dealt with in the way that a victim would be. It wasn’t taken as seriously as if someone had stolen my handbag.
For me it’s the little things – I haven’t been able to dress the same. I feel I have to put trousers on rather than a skirt. I’m paranoid about pupils with their phones or when they are asking questions – the trust is gone.
I think it affects your day-to-day job and you need to talk to pupils about that so that you’re comfortable going back into the classroom. Olivia, 31
“I found upskirt pictures on my partner’s phone”
We were watching a film on his laptop – his phone was plugged in and when the film finished I saw hundreds of inappropriate pictures of different women.
I said: “What’s that?” And he immediately jumped over to the laptop and spun it around so I couldn’t see.
He said: “Oh it’s just some old pictures. I’ll delete them.”
I wasn’t sure how to react, especially as this was my first ever relationship. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
But a year later, I found a lot more pictures on his phone. I could tell that they were from our local town centre and from his gym, and that he’d obviously taken them himself. I was absolutely horrified.
Eventually I got the confidence to leave him. It has caused me to have years of therapy, and I find it hard to trust my current partner. Alice, 21
“My daughter was the victim of an upskirter “
It was about three years ago and my two daughters went to the shopping centre – they were aged 18 and 15 and it was a particularly hot day.
A man happened to notice that someone was following them and he suddenly saw the other chap go up to them and, without them noticing, take photographs up their skirt and shorts. He was very upset to see this and he called for security.
They apprehended this man and looked on his phone and realised he had taken several photographs up different women’s skirts.
The police arrived and were very concerned because they thought that my 15-year-old daughter had had a photograph taken of her. As it turned there wasn’t a picture of her, but there was of my 18-year-old.
The difficulty was that the police couldn’t really find much that they could charge him with because she was an adult and it was in a public place. First of all they wanted to charge him with voyeurism but apparently that can only happen if you’re in your own home and someone’s taking a picture through your window. So in the end I think they charged him with something like public nuisance.
He pleaded guilty and got a fine, and my daughter got compensation. So that was it really. The police took it so seriously, but they just didn’t have anything that they could charge him with.
It’s happened to me as well. I had a photograph taken up my skirt on the Piccadilly line. I probably didn’t sit down in a particularly lady-like way. I was reading the newspaper and the woman next to me nudged me and said: “The man opposite’s just taken a photograph up your skirt.”
I was quite annoyed, so I took a photograph of him and as soon as I got to the station I gave it to the British Transport Police. They again were brilliant, they really took time and trouble to try and trace that man, but unfortunately they couldn’t.
The police do take this seriously but the laws haven’t yet caught up with technology. Amanda, 55
Ms. Martin tells her story of her experience at the festival in London.
“I was at British Summer Time festival in Hyde park in July. There were two guys being creepy, standing next to me… It was packed, so I couldn’t really move away, but I hoped if I was stern they would stop, but they persisted, and I saw from the corner of my eye one of them had his WhatsApp open.
“I saw a picture of a girl and it showed her crotch. I knew the picture was of me, so I grabbed his phone and ran to security. The police arrived and they were good, they said they had a look at the pictures, but they were not graphic, and they asked him to delete them. Then the police told us to enjoy our nights. I got a call a few days later to say that the picture had been deleted, but I felt that I had no power, and when I looked into the law I found that it didn’t cover upskirting,” Ms. Martin told TSGMAX.
Ms. Martin has since started an online petition calling on the British government to make upskirting an offense and for anyone caught doing it to be prosecuted.
“In my opinion, the repercussions should be that you are on sex offenders register. I am not saying they should go to jail, it might not be touching someone, but its fueling sexual gratification from someone without them knowing,” Ms. Martin told TSGMAX.
Since the petition was launched, Ms. Martin has faced some harsh criticism from both men and women.
PLEASE RETWEET RICHARD’S CALL FOR THE LAWS TO BE CHANGED. https://t.co/H4sUH5yPsG
— Gina Martin (@beaniegigi) August 11, 2017
People on social media have called her a “s**g” and told her to get her “vagina out.” She also had one man tell her that she “deserves to get raped.”
“The commentary on social media has been horrific, I’ve had to take some time off work,” Ms Martin said.
However, with time, the support that Ms. Martin has been given from MPs, the police, as well as campaigners, has spurred her on. She said the social media abuse has also help to encourage her to fight for what is right.
— Holly E Squire (@HollyEsquire) August 15, 2017
“Some of the stories I have heard from from girls who are barely teenagers is upsetting. I have also spoken to two female teachers where this happened to them continually, and they don’t feel like their case is being taken seriously,” Ms. Martin said.
“I would advise anyone who faces this to report it straight away. Go and tell the police, don’t ignore it,” Ms. Martin told TSGMAX.