After two men took upskirt photos of Gina Martin, she began a campaign to make it a sexual offense. Now, she’s teamed up with Eliza Hatch, creator of Cheer up Luv, and Refinery29 UK to tell the stories of women who have been upskirted, and encourage the government to #StopSkirtingTheIssue.
Liv is fiercely intelligent and smiley. She lives in London with her childhood best friend, who she says is basically her "wife." She has been known to sit and eat an entire chorizo ring but says she’s been "chorizo clean" for at least five months.
As Eliza and I pull up at the station to meet Liv for the first time and photograph her, we realize we are in the same train carriage. "Gina?" "Liv! I thought it might be you!" We have a big cuddle and sit down to talk.
Last summer, Liv was on the Tube home from a family party with her mom and dad. Earlier that day, her mom had commented on her skirt, saying, "You can’t wear that on the Tube," but it was a hot day and she wanted to wear a skirt, so she did. "We were just talking — I think we were teasing dad — and there were two guys in suits opposite us. Suddenly, one of them turned to the other one angrily and went ‘What the fuck are you doing? What the fuck are you doing!? You’ve just been taking pictures up that girl's skirt!’"
There was a second of silence before Liv realized he was talking about her. "I didn’t say anything, but then he pointed at me and turned to my parents, saying: 'He’s been taking pictures up your daughter's skirt, I’ve seen him! Go on, show them. Show them!'"
They’d just pulled into their stop and Liv didn’t know what to do, so, like most of us would, she just stood up and got off the train. "I could feel everyone's eyes on me, I felt so humiliated."
Not a word was exchanged between Liv and her parents as they went up the escalators, so she looked at her dad. "I remember his face. I’d never seen him look like that before. He looked so sad and guilty and…hopeless." Then, from a place of anger at the situation, her mom turned to her: "I told you not to wear that skirt!" Understandably, Liv was hurt. "I just looked at her and I burst into tears. I was so upset that she’d said that. I couldn’t believe the she’d done the classic thing of: ‘It’s your fault.’ I know she didn’t mean it like that and I know she was frustrated, but it really hurt."
Liv tells me they continued the journey home in silence. "It’s awful being sexualized by someone else anyway, but in front of your parents…it was horrible." She explains that she thinks her mom was coming from a place of pragmatism: "Her opinion is that there are bad people around, and you have to do everything you can to keep yourself safe." We talk for a second about victim blaming and how it perpetuates the problem.
"My mom is someone who I really look up to as a female role model, so for her view of the situation to be so contrary to who she is to me — that was really hard to hear. I’m incredibly open about everything. Sometimes too much so. But I’ve never spoken to them about it. Still to this day I feel angry about it."
You can sign the Care2 petition calling for upskirt photos to be made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 here. Refinery29 UK will be publishing more stories by women who have been affected by upskirting in the coming weeks. Read Gina Martin's original piece here.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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