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Cambridge woman sobs after men open the curtain on her in Primark unisex changing room

A woman has warned female shoppers not to go in the changing rooms in Cambridge’s Primark alone after two men accessed her cubicle while she was trying on clothes.

Charlotte Kirby posted a video on TikTok describing the incident last Saturday at the shop in Cambridge which left her sobbing and afraid.

The men were able to access her cubicle because Primark operates a policy of having unisex changing rooms so it can be more “inclusive” rather than offering single sex spaces for trying on clothes.

Charlotte Kirby, who posted a video on TikTok after two men came into her cubicle in unisex changing rooms in Cambridge's Primark store.
Charlotte Kirby, who posted a video on TikTok after two men came into her cubicle in unisex changing rooms in Cambridge's Primark store.

The chain, which along with other clothing stores including Marks and Spencer, now allows men into areas where women are getting changed said it wanted to “ensure these are always safe and inclusive spaces for everyone.”

But women’s campaign group Cambs Women Together is urging shops to rethink their unisex changing room policies, which were brought in to prevent people who are transgender or non-binary from feeling excluded in single-sex changing areas.

Charlotte said on her TikTok video: “I probably shouldn't be doing this when I'm still emotional but I feel like I need to get the word out.

“I was just in Primark in Cambridge and I feel really stupid being emotional about this, but I was trying on some clothes and it was a unisex changing room, which I'm really for and I love that because you know, it makes everyone feel included, but twice two men opened the curtain and walked in on me. Luckily, I was fully clothed, but I could easily not have been. It was two different people, clearly from the same group and there were probably like 100 changing rooms available.”

The men entered her cubicle twice, leaving her shaken. She told Primark security about the incidents and said they had been “amazing”, adding: “They were really really good about it. They have walked me back to my car and everything because I was scared.”

But she added that this was not an isolated incident: “Apparently it's not the first time it's happened and security are watching the back of the tapes and seeing if they can find who it is,” said Charlotte.

Primark's store in Cambridge. Picture Keith Heppell.
Primark's store in Cambridge. Picture Keith Heppell.

And she has warned other shoppers not to enter the changing rooms alone. She said: “I just want to say to people, please be careful. And if you go to the changing room, try not go on your own. I will never be doing that again. I would rather take it home, try it on and then take it back and get refunded. To stay safe.”

Cambridgeshire police confirmed that the store had not contacted them about the incident.

A spokesperson for Primark said: “We are really sorry to hear of this customer’s experience. It shouldn’t have happened and we’re urgently investigating. We are currently reviewing our approach to fitting rooms in our stores to ensure these are always safe and inclusive spaces for everyone.”

Primark in Cambrudge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59598304)
Primark in Cambrudge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59598304)

The Cambridgeshire women’s rights campaign group Cambs WomenTogether said: “Primark is not the only high street store that has reduced women and girls safety by introducing mixed sex changing rooms.

It said a number of high street stores had been “jumping on the ‘gender neutral’ bandwagon in order to accommodate men who wish to wear women’s clothes or men who state they are women or men who wish to take advantage of opening closed changing room curtains in the hope of catching a female occupant in a state of undress”.

The group added: “If the video is taken at face value this is not the first time a female customer trying on clothes in Cambridge has had the curtain pulled back on them by a male customer, nor is it a new phenomenon for Primark. However, it is unlikely the security guards could do anything as according to the stores policy these men were in the mixed sex changing area, therefore doing nothing wrong.

“Making spaces mixed sex is currently promoted by schools, universities, Cambridgeshire councils and employers. Ignoring a person’s visible sex characteristics in favour of undiscernible gender, it is an easy win for ‘diversity’ and attracts considerable funding.

“The question that we are not supposed to ask is how do we teach our daughters boundaries so they can be confident in advocating for their own safety, privacy, and dignity when they are being taught in school that gender neutral (mixed sex) changing rooms and toilets are inclusive and they need to ignore their instincts?”

However, Helen Slone, chair of board of trustees for the Encompass Network, a group providing information and support for LGBTQ+ people in Cambridgeshire, explained that unisex changing rooms could help reduce stress experienced by some people when they access them.

She said: “Everyone deserves to feel safe. Whatever the configuration of changing rooms, they should be monitored by staff to ensure this.

“People who do not identify with a binary gender, and people who have an external presentation that does not match their gender, are frequently challenged when they access clothing changing rooms. This is very stressful and damaging to mental health. Unisex changing rooms remove this problem. However, as stated before, any changing room needs monitoring to ensure safety.”

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