| 8.1°C Dublin

sick messages Teen leading campaign to change 'upskirting' laws says she has been forced to move home after threats

Tegan Nesbitt was sent an ominous message warning ‘we know where you live.

Close

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Teenager Tegan Nesbitt has been forced to move home because of threats linked to her campaign against upskirting.

The 18-year-old was left shaken after receiving anonymous threats within days of starting an online petition.

As well as abusive comments telling her she deserved to be intimately filmed without her knowledge, Tegan was also sent an ominous message warning ‘we know where you live’.

After six months of living with friends in Belfast she’s now moved home for her own safety.

“I’ve been told ‘you are too ugly to get raped’ and that I deserved to be upskirted – but when I got the threat I felt it would be safer to lie low, and I’ve had to move back to Derry,” says Tegan.

The courageous campaigner started a change.org petition last month calling for upskirting to be made an offence, which has got more than 40,000 signatures in a few weeks.

Close

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

There is no specific offence relating to upskirting in Northern Ireland and in one of the most high-profile cases, involving Fermanagh schoolboy Timothy Boomer, he was charged with five counts of outraging public decency after lifting the skirts of two teachers at Enniskillen Royal Grammar to covertly film them.

Creepshots

Scotland has already got legislation in place, and the Voyeurism Act was introduced in England and Wales in April 2019 following a campaign by Gina Martin, who was targeted at a music festival. As a result, upskirting, or creepshots now carry a maximum penalty of two years. Timothy Boomer’s sentence in February 2019 was a 20-hour restorative order.

Tegan was left terrified and humiliated after an incident in a Derry bar in March last year when she realised that a young man had lifted her skirt and put his phone between her legs, while six of his friends recorded videos of the incident.

She was shocked not only that the incident happened but that no one confronted the group about their behaviour.

“It was a really well lit, crowded bar. There were at least 100 people there.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

“I felt my skirt being pulled up and when I turned round there were six fellas videoing me from all angles and another one with his phone between my legs.

“I didn’t know what to do, and it was laughed off,” she says.

“My first thought was what if my parents see this video? There were girls who I know who saw what happened and they came over to see if I was okay, but no one else went out of their way to call these boys out or confront them. They just watched it happen.”

Close

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan Nesbitt, whose upskirting assault in a Derry bar has led to a campaign to have the law changed

Tegan went to a bouncer for help and asked for the group to be thrown out, and for the footage to be found and deleted.

She was taken to a staff area where she made a short video to send to her friends telling them where she was and what had happened. The staff member returned after a short time to tell her the perpetrator couldn’t be found.

“They didn’t throw the rest of the boys out and they still had their videos as well. They advised me to go home because I was visibly upset.”

When the video that Tegan had made of herself popped up on her phone last month, she researched upskirting laws in Northern Ireland and realised there aren’t any, so she started her petition.

The campaigner, who’s beginning a law degree at Queen’s this autumn, has since been contacted by women aged 13 to 60 who have had similar experiences.

Tegan has also been quizzed about why she didn’t go to the police, and what she was wearing that night, a practice known as victim blaming which suggests she bears some responsibility for the incident.

“In situations like that you don’t feel like you have a right to speak up, because worse things have happened to other people, so you don’t feel like you have a right to come forward.

“After it happened, I didn’t really talk about it. The only reason this petition started was because my video came up in my photos a year to the day, of me in a backroom sobbing.

Supermarkets

“I know women who work in the system, social workers and barristers who’ve told me you will be degraded and humiliated in court; you are going to be victim-blamed. We’ve seen someone’s underwear being held up in court.”

Since the law was introduced in England and Wales it’s been revealed that supermarkets are where most upskirting incidents take place.

In the first year of the Voyeurism Act 16 men were convicted in connection with 48 offences. Two-thirds of the incidents happened in shops, and the rest were on public transport or on the street, with one in a school. Four men were jailed as a result.

Tegan says the campaign against sexual abuse in schools in England which is gathering pace after thousands of incidents were reported on campaign website Everyone’s Invited should be extended to Northern Ireland.

She’s spoken to several local principals to convince them that schools should be tackling the issue.

“Schools need to be more proactive and chat to their boys about here is what you need to do better.

“I’m very lucky to be surrounded by males and male friends who are so supportive. Other boys don’t know what to do when their friends do things like this.”

The teenager has praised the actions of Justice Minister Naomi Long who is bringing legislation forward to the Assembly next month which will outlaw upskirting and down-blousing.

“I am bringing forward specific legislative proposals to deal with this behaviour and to include down-blousing as part of the Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, due for introduction to the Assembly in May,” the minister said.

“Once introduced, the proposals will be subject to relevant consideration and scrutiny during the course of its passage within the Assembly.

“Whilst I am conscious that the legislative process takes time to progress, I can confirm that, currently, taking invasive photographs of this nature is illegal. Perpetrators can, and have been, prosecuted under existing laws.

“I would hope that bringing forward a specific upskirting offence sends out a very clear message that such behaviour is an abuse and a violation of a person’s privacy and is a crime which must be taken seriously.”

Tegan has vowed to keep the pressure on until the law catches up with her campaign.

“This is not my petition; this is our petition.

“I want to be confident that this won’t happen to my little sister,” she says.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy