Upskirting campaigner undeterred by ‘regular rape threats and abuse’

An upskirting victim spearheading the campaign to criminalise the cruel craze in the UK said she has been bombarded with rape threats and abusive messages blaming her for the incident.

Gina Martin, 26, has spent the last year calling for the ban after two men took a picture up her skirt while at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park in 2017.

Ms Martin, a freelance writer living in London, only realised what had happened when she spotted one of the men sharing the image on his mobile phone in front of her – but despite snatching the device and presenting it as evidence to nearby police, the case was closed four days later.

Upskirting victim and campaigner Gina Martin with lawyer Ryan Whelan outside the Houses of Parliamentearlier this year (PA)/ handout

Ms Martin said her campaign – which has won cross-party political support and has been backed by the likes of television presenters Holly Willoughby, Dermot O’Leary and Laura Whitmore – has resulted in regular torrents of abuse over social media, as well as accusations that she was to blame.

She told the Press Association: “It’s generally people telling me that I should have worn trousers, or I deserved it, or I’m attention-seeking, but they can get pretty horrible at points.

“At the very beginning it was really bad and I was getting a lot of rape threats.

“I still get a lot of stuff in comments, but, if anything, it shows me that people don’t get this, so let’s keep going.”

The first figures on the prevalence of upskirting, published by the Press Association earlier this year, showed complainants as young as 10, with incidents in a slew of public locations such as restaurants and festivals.

Currently victims in England and Wales are forced to seek prosecution through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment, prompting the call for a specific law similar to one already in force in Scotland.

A Private Member’s Bill, tabled by Bath Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, is in the list to be potentially called on June 15, although there would be further legal hurdles before any law comes into force.

Ms Martin said she hoped the campaign would have a positive impact on attitudes as well as providing a clear avenue for justice for victims, many of whom have also contacted her for advice or support.

She said: “They (victims) feel they can reach out because they know I’ve been through it.

“But the really interesting thing for me is that it can happen anywhere – it’s supermarkets, it’s bus stops when they’re on their own, Tube cars, in parks, festivals – it’s happening everywhere.

“Before I started working with Ryan (Whelan, her lawyer) it was very difficult for me to professionalise it and say ‘We’re going to do this’ – it was ‘I’m going to try and do this’.

“Now I feel I’ve got to the point where we are going to do this, and I’m doing it for other women because my case was closed four days after it happened to me – it’s not about me.

“It really spurs me on because they need my help, and hopefully we’ll get there soon.

“The change in the law is huge, it sets a precedent of what’s right and wrong and it means it will cover women in every situation which the law can’t now.

“But changing attitudes is also really important. More importantly, realising you can be a regular person like I am and make a difference if you keep working at it and get the right people involved.”

Lawyer Mr Whelan said: “It’s abundantly clear the law should be different and it should catch upskirting in all circumstances.

“Whether we’ve spoken to the Lib Dems, Labour, Conservatives – there’s universal agreement. It’s just a case of going through the details, making sure a change in law is the right change and that unintended consequences don’t arise.”

- Press Association


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