A Brisbane woman’s encounter with an 'upskirter' has us asking: How common is this? How does it happen? And how can it be stopped?
Teagan (not her real name) was travelling through central Brisbane on the Springfield train line in December 2016 when she noticed a man sitting opposite her with a phone concealed in a folded newspaper. There was a small hole torn in the newspaper for the phone’s camera lens, which Teagan believes was being used to film between her legs.
Teagan and the man were the only passengers in the booth and there were only a couple of others in the carriage at the time. “I don't think people who do this sort of thing respect women, I think they objectify women, so confronting him seemed like a bad decision, especially when we were alone,” Teagan told The Feed. (Note: The Feed does not believe it is a victim’s responsibility to confront a perpetrator.)
Dr Waling is aware of upskirters wearing shoes with hidden cameras.
In a statement to The Feed, Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy, said, “If a customer on board a train service or at a train station ever feels unsafe, we encourage them to move to the next carriage and use the passenger intercom near each train door, or in the centre of most platforms, to speak with the on-board train crew or our Rail Management Centre who will be able to assist.”
Easy went on to note that Queensland Rail provided CCTV footage to Queensland Police Service to assist with their investigation.
Dr Andrea Waling from La Trobe University’s School of Psychology and Public Health has a special research interest in image-based abuse, including upskirting, ‘creepshots’ and revenge porn. Dr Waling tells The Feed that there are numerous porn sites where upskirters can upload footage, and that she’s aware of upskirters dangling selfie sticks or wearing shoes with hidden cameras to get a better angle up a victim’s skirt.
Asked what motivates upskirters, Dr Waling says, “It is definitely for personal sexual gratification, as well as a form of bonding with other men. Men are conditioned to bond with other men through the sexual degradation of women. It is also about reaffirming an aggressive heterosexual masculine self, and, in some ways, a way for some men to attempt to reclaim power that they may have perceived to have lost with the rise of women’s liberated sexuality.”
While upskirting is illegal in Australia, it made news in the U.K. last month when a private member’s bill to criminalise it was stalled. Although the one and only objection to the bill was made by a member of her own party, Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to see image-based abuse laws pass soon “with government support”.
In conversations about sexual abuse against women in public, commentators often encourage women to dress modestly. Ironically, under current British law, if a woman wants to press charges against someone for upskirting, she needs to have not been wearing underwear in order for the footage to be considered sexually explicit.
“It freaked me out more than I want to admit,” says Teagan. It’s for this reason that she chose not to share her story immediately after it happened. But having sighted the man who upskirted her appearing to scout for victims multiple times since the incident, she now feels compelled to speak out.
“I haven’t stopped wearing skirts nor have I stopped taking public transport. I considered alternative routes to and from work that would ensure I was not alone.” (Note: The Feed does not believe the onus should be on women to change how they dress or travel in order to avoid being upskirted.)
Dr Waling says there is no way of knowing how common upskirting is – but stories like Teagan’s will encourage more victims to come forward, which will help researchers and police better understand the crime.
This story was generated from Teagan’s tip-off. If you have a story for The Feed, send us a private message via Facebook or Twitter.
If you would like to talk to a counsellor about rape, sexual assault or domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).