Belfast Telegraph

Upskirting left us feeling violated and worthless, teachers tell MLAs

'There is currently no legislation on upskirting in Northern Ireland, though the Department of Justice recently launched a consultation on potential changes to the law' (stock photo)
'There is currently no legislation on upskirting in Northern Ireland, though the Department of Justice recently launched a consultation on potential changes to the law' (stock photo)
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Two teachers who were the victims of upskirting have told MLAs they were "horrified and felt totally violated" by the incidents.

The women, who wish to remain anonymous, addressed a committee at Stormont this week as a teachers' union stepped up calls for a change in the law on upskirting and the taking of intimate images without consent in Northern Ireland.

The NASUWT hosted a meeting with MLAs and their advisors, who were shocked and appalled at how the teachers had been targeted.

There is currently no legislation on upskirting in Northern Ireland, though the Department of Justice recently launched a consultation on potential changes to the law.

In moving accounts of their experiences, the teachers described how they felt after a pupil filmed up their skirts.

"I remember being surprised and horrified because he was somebody I had taught and I was horrified it was him," one of the teachers said.

"It was a breach of trust. He was a pupil that I knew and trusted.

"We knew what he did was morally and ethically wrong.

"He had filmed up our skirts and we felt totally violated by what he had done.

"It is very deliberate and hugely invasive. I couldn't accept the fact that somebody just owned parts of my body."

The teacher said at school she "became scared of children and felt like I was a victim".

She added: "I felt (like) a worthless human being, an object to abuse, for people to take whatever they wanted from me.

"That was a very difficult thing to try and get over."

Both teachers said a change to the law was needed to protect girls and women.

One of the teachers told MLAs legislation needed to go even further than new laws in other parts of the UK.

"The current law doesn't protect us as victims - it doesn't serve me and my body, the body that was violated," she said.

"The offence of outraging public decency gives justice to others who were present who might have been outraged. It is nothing to do with me.

"We need upskirting to be made a specific offence, so it is attributed to where the harm is. The harm is our bodies... have been violated."

Both said that although they were getting on with their lives, they were still affected.

"That sense of vulnerability has not gone away. When I see older boys and girls out of school, my immediate thought is 'have they seen those images of me up my skirt?'," one said.

NASUWT Northern Ireland official Justin McCamphill told MLAs that a law needed to be passed and that the act was deliberate and non-consensual.

"The law doesn't go far enough and there is an opportunity for Northern Ireland to have a bespoke law that deals with this issue," he said.

"The NASUWT is of the view that comprehensive legislation, which covers all forms of non-consensual distribution of private sexual images, needs to be brought forward.

"The legislation should cover the range of circumstances in which private sexual images are distributed without consent, including revenge pornography and voyeurism, as well as upskirting and downblousing."

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