A teenage victim of upskirting has gained almost 40,000 signatures through her online petition calling on Stormont to make the act illegal in Northern Ireland.
Upskirting is the invasive practice of taking an image or video of underneath somebody’s clothing without their consent.
The voyeuristic practice became a specific criminal offence in England and Wales in April 2019. It was already an offence in Scotland.
In August last year, Justice Minister Naomi Long said she planned to bring forward proposals to make upskirting a specific offence in early 2021.
Tegan Nesbitt (18) from Londonderry was targeted by an unknown male and his friends in a bar in the city shortly before the first Covid-19 lockdown.
The male lifted her skirt up in front of around 100 people as he and others recorded the act on their phone.
Tegan, who said she felt “completely embarrassed and scared”, pleaded with a bouncer to help but she was brought to a back alley of the bar before being asked to go home. Security staff said they could not find the male who made the recording.
Following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham earlier this month, Tegan said she wanted to make her voice heard after realising that upskirting was not illegal in Northern Ireland.
Tegan set up her online petition calling for legislation to criminalise the act on Sunday and has gained almost 40,000 signatures.
She also used her Twitter and Instagram accounts to share her story, including a clip of herself in the back alley of the bar alone and crying as she tried to let her friends know where she was.
“That was the last night I went out before lockdown,” said Tegan, who will begin a degree in law with politics at Queen’s University in September.
“I stayed at my friend’s for a few days following that and I didn’t go to school for a few days either. I was still at school whenever this happened.
“I’m never going to get justice for what happened to me. This right now what I’m doing, is to make sure what happened to me can’t happen to anybody else.
“What he and his friends did and the fact no one came forward to help someone in distress was insane to watch.”
Tegan has since sent emails raising the issue with her local MLAs, as well as Ms Long, and said she will stand outside Stormont until upskirting is made illegal if she has to.
Admitting she was in a “state of shock” with the response her petition received, Tegan added that while she has had huge support, there are a small number of anonymous accounts sending hate messages.
“People have shared their stories and reached out to support it,” she said. “There is a small bit of hate and people told me I deserved it. It’s worth it for the amount of support I’ve got.”
The Department of Justice was asked for an update on proposed upskirting legislation in Northern Ireland.
If you would like to sign Tegan’s petition visit change.org/upskirtingNI