I’m Gina Martin and I was upskirted at a festival last year. A guy, whose advances I’d rejected, put his iPhone between my legs and took photos of my crotch in broad daylight. Then he sent the pictures to all his friend around me. I heard them laughing. I saw the photo on one of their phones, and, in a split second, I decided I wasn’t brushing something like this off again. I grabbed the phone and ran to the police with him running after me. Once I’d handed the picture, the phone and one of the guys over the police I thought the law would do the rest, but the police told me there wasn’t much they could do. I went home a mess and, after a phone call from the police saying my case was closed, found out the upskirting isn’t a sexual offence in England and Wales (although it is in Scotland). I was angry, I was hurt, and I was fucking sick of sexual harassment being a fee I’d been unwillingly paying since I was a teenager just for not being a straight cis man. I looked into the law and launched a national campaign to make upskirting a sex offence, heading into Parliament, lobbying, working my ass off and eventually convincing the Government to change the law using mine and my lawyer’s legislation. Now, a year and a half after I launched the campaign, my bill is going through the parliamentary process and it will become law. I’m proud, but I’m not done yet. There’s still some way to go until the law hits the statute books and it’s all done.
Changing the law on my own is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have had to, at certain moments, become someone I didn’t think I could be or didn’t want to be, do things I never thought I would deal with rape threats, online abuse, media scrutiny, political agendas and all this on the side of my full-time job. I’m bloody exhausted, and sometimes I need a real pep talk to get me going again. The problem is, I don’t know anyone who’s done this before or anyone who knows exactly what I’m going through, so I’ve decided to write a letter to future me when I need it the most, and I’m sharing it here in the hopes that it will inspire you to keep going, or to use your voice and fight for what you believe in.
Hey Gina, old Gina here.
So, it’s all getting too much again. Maybe the trolling is getting to you, maybe the politics is getting crazy, agendas are getting in the way, people are treating you badly, or maybe the media has screwed things up for you by misreporting again. Whatever it is, I’m writing this as positive you. Annoying Everything Will Be GREAT Gina. The Gina who still thinks she can make upskirting illegal. The bill is going through, it’s going to become law, whatever happens, you just have to keep it on track, not let anything damage it. You just have to fight to get it over the line.
You knew that changing the law on your own was going to be fucking hard. Remember walking out of the tube after work and telling Jordy that you were going to try and do it? He paused and said ‘just imagine if you did, though. Imagine if you actually changed the law’ and for a moment you stood still smiling, before shaking the notion out of your head and reminding him that was ‘impossible’ (on that note, go and cuddle that lovely boyfriend of yours. He always makes you feel better), but you know what? You’ve convinced the Government to change the law all on your own. And that’s big. I know right now it feels like nothing to you – that when people express how incredible they think that achievement is, you almost feel like they don’t really get it – like it’s not as big a deal as they think it is – but that’s imposter syndrome, baby. That’s because slowly, over time, before anyone even knew what you were doing, you were working on something huge, and that something huge became a reality. Your reality. It’s difficult to see how big something is when you’re up close. Changing the law has become normal. You know how it looks, how it feels, how doable it is and how it all works behind the scenes, and, you know that it’s hell sometimes. Most of the time. It really is. But you’re resilient enough to finish it. You’ve got this far.
However, before you end up crying in the shower again here’s a couple of things to keep you going: remember the 12-year-old who said she was too scared to go to school after it had happened to her because everyone had ‘inspected’ the picture to make sure it was her crotch? Well, you’re doing it for her. Remember when the campaign almost got taken from you? When they tried to steal all your work and you were devastated because you had given your whole life to this? Well, it’s still yours to achieve. Remember how many comments were on the petition, begging you to carry on? The young kids in school whose teacher had been doing it to them for years? They need you right now. Remember how scared and small the guys who did it to you made you feel? You know what this change would mean to people, so you’re the one that has to finish it.
If you’re rolling your eyes thinking ‘easy for you to say, you don’t know what’s happened yet’ think back to summer, when you were blubbering on the phone to Jordy in the middle of Soho after running away from your 9-5 office because the bill was nearly derailed. You said ‘if it dies I’ll just go again. It can’t fail because I won’t stop.’ Remember that. Whatever happens, that’s the one thing you’ve always known when it’s got really bad; it will happen because you just won’t stop.
Now, have a shower, get in your PJs and do something that’ll make you feel productive; clear your inbox, sort out your diary, or, if you’re really struggling ignore all that and just get into bed with the most nostalgic, soothing movie you can think of. Everything else can wait until tomorrow. No one needs anything from you in this moment. Getting to that end goal may mean everything to you right now, but taking a night off is more important. It’ll give you the headspace to attack the work tomorrow with new energy and renewed focus. You’ll get there.