This blog post was originally published on The Safeguarding Company website >> https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/upskirting-what-you-need-to-know/
UPSKIRTING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
In this blog, we discuss the definition of upskirting, the upskirting laws that came into effect in 2019 and how conversations around consent and sexual harassment can prevent Upskirting.
On 12th April 2019, Upskirting became a criminal offence in England and Wales, which meant offenders could face up to two years in prison and in serious cases could also be added to the sex offender register.
WHAT IS UPSKIRTING?
According to the UK Government 'upskirting is a highly intrusive practice, which typically involves someone taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks (with or without underwear).’
Upskirting can take place in multiple places from schools and colleges to public places such as on public transport or even in the streets. Anyone, of any age or gender, can be the victim of Upskirting and often the purpose of Upskirting is to obtain sexual gratification without that person’s consent or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm.
In 2018 Gina was at a music festival in Hyde Park, London, when she saw a man looking at a picture on his phone that had been taken up a woman’s skirt. Gina realised that the image was of her and had been taken without her consent.
“Two guys standing nearby were acting really creepy towards us,” she explained. “I told them to leave us alone and kind of brushed it off. About half an hour later, I saw one of them holding his phone, he was on WhatsApp. There was a picture, and it was up a girl’s skirt, right between her legs. I just knew it was me.” – Gina Martin
Once Gina had confirmed her identity in the image, she took the phone to the security guards who promptly called the police. However, when officers arrived onsite all they did was ask them to delete the photo. A few days later Gina received a phone call telling her that the case had been closed and no criminal charges would be brought against the man who had taken the photo of her. After that, Gina decided to start campaigning to make upskirting a criminal offence in England and Wales.
Sadly, Gina's experience is not an unusual one. When Gina started to campaign for upskirting to become a criminal offence the Press Association made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to police forces in England and Wales. The result showed that since 2015 there had been 78 offences perused by police in relation to upskirting. The majority of these cases involve alleged offences against young women and girls. In most cases, many had to be dropped due to lack of evidence – including a case involving an alleged offence on a 10-year-old girl. Out of all the cases, only 11 offenders were charged.
Previously upskirting did not fall under the ‘voyeurism offence’ in the Sexual Offences act 2003 which makes it a crime if someone, for sexual gratification and without consent, observes another person doing a private act. upskirting often occurs in a public place which meant a person could not be considered ‘doing a private act.’ Upskirting photos are also not always intended for sexual gratification but to also humiliate and harass the victims.
HOW TO PREVENT UPSKIRTING
Despite the sexual nature behind upskirting, this type of behaviour can start when children are very young. An example is young boys who try to pull up girls’ skirts on the playground. It leads back to how important it is that we are educating children and young people to respect each other’s boundaries to prevent this type of behaviour.
Read our blog on Consent for more information on how to have these conversations with children and young people. upskirting also falls under the peer-on-peer abuse category. For more information on peer-on-peer abuse visit our resource hub.
If you or someone you know has experienced Upskirting, there are many organisations that offer support.