What is upskirting? And why is it not a sexual offence yet?

As shown in recent news reports, dealing with sexual harassment is an ongoing concern that people from around the world may face on a daily basis. Often such cases can be harmful, not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. In many cases, the government is stepping in to do all they can and make such actions punishable under law. However, one such incident that has yet to be made an offence, is “upskirting”.

What exactly is upskirting?

Upskirting refers to the act of taking a photograph (also known as a “creepshot”*) of underneath a person’s skirt without their permission. Upskirting is an alarmingly common occurrence and is usually performed in a public place, which is often crowded, which makes it hard to spot people taking such images.

How can upskirting affect somebody?

Being a witness to or the victim of such an indecent act may make you feel incredibly uncomfortable and vulnerable, particularly if you are alone. If the person or persons responsible are exhibiting intimidating behaviours, then you may feel unable to confront them for fear of further discomfort and/or of being threatened. The knowledge that someone has taken potentially graphic images without consent can cause emotional distress for a long time after the event itself.

Why has it not been made a sexual offence yet?

The biggest issue surrounding upskirting is that it is currently not deemed an offence in the UK and Wales. If you catch someone doing it and manage to inform the authorities, they will request that the image be deleted, but further prosecution is not possible.

In one reported instance, the police have informed a victim that, even though the image is clearly of her and was taken against her permission, there was nothing they could do as she was wearing underwear.*

In Scotland, upskirting is already an illegal offence, and a number of MPs are pushing for similar legislation in the rest of the UK. In fact, one brave individual, Gina Martin, started a campaign which has already received more than 70,000 signatures online in favour of making upskirting a punishable offence.

Seeking support

Even though the government has yet to appropriately address this issue, there are forms of support you can receive if you have been personally affected by upskirting. Here at Safeline, we provide a number of specialist services to support people affected by sexual abuse and these include:

– Counselling: We offer a variety of face-to-face and online therapy sessions where you can talk to someone you can trust about your reactions, your thoughts, your feelings and your experiences within a private and confidential space.
– Prevention Projects: We offer workshops to help train people on how to avoid, spot and prevent such incidents as upskirting.
– National Helpline: If an incident has just occurred and you require immediate emotional support, then our National Male Helpline and Young People’s Helpline is available to people living in England and Wales.
– Independent Sexual Violence Advisors: Reporting incidents to the police can be daunting and stressful to the individual – we can support you throughout the entire process.
– Training: We train not just individuals, but also communities on how to prevent harassing incidents.

If you would like to find support for any of the services listed above, then we are available 6 days a week to discuss this with you (Monday to Saturday). There are several methods to contact us – you can find more details on this page www.safeline.org.uk/contact-us/

*http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-are-creepshots-and-what-can-we-do-about-them-80807
**www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/news/a37265/upskirting-legal-uk-women-rights
***www.theguardian.com/law/2017/sep/05/upskirting-could-be-made-criminal-offence-in-britain-mps-told
(www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/takeaction/887/239/401/)


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