In the Media

‘Legal eagle’ Jessica turns the tables on online bullies (The Royal Borough Observer)

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A legal analyst who works for a Maidenhead-based law firm specialising in sexual harassment and online abuse has turned the tables on bullies who sent inappropriate messages to her – telling them ‘you picked the wrong person’.

Jessica Van Meir, an employee of McAllister Olivarius, based in West Street Maidenhead, was travelling alone to the US when she started receiving inappropriate messages from a group of men on Virgin’s in-flight messaging system. One of the men told her ‘welcome to hell’ and warned ‘you are now in the danger zone’.

Jessica has also received online abuse since the story was picked up by mainstream media outlets, prompting associate lawyer Amy Kowalski to speak out in support of her colleague this week.

She said: “The onus is often placed on us to keep ourselves safe — to not accept the chat request, to dress a certain way, to behave a certain way — but our message to perpetrators is that they are the ones who need to change. Let’s put the shame where it belongs.”

Elaborating on her comments she said this week: “While anyone can be a victim of revenge porn and online abuse, it is becoming worryingly routine for women and girls. Frankly, the problems with the Virgin system could and should have been anticipated. We’re not opposed to innovation but it needs to be engineered with safety at its core, not as an afterthought.”