Scenario One: Janet, a 25-year-old dental hygienist, was trying on a swimsuit at a large department store when she noticed what appeared to be a small camera poking through a hole in the wall of the adjoining room. She immediately dressed, burst out of her dressing room, blocked the suspect from leaving the adjacent room, and called until 911. Police officers arrested the subject and charged him with video voyeurism, a felony offense in Florida. The perpetrator admitted recording at least 50 other women in the fitting room over a period of six months.
Scenario Two: It is a dispatched prowler in progress call. Emily, a 31-year-old single mother, just saw a white male adult looking into her window as she was changing into her nightgown after a shower. The man was masturbating. It's a slow night, so everyone shows up to look for the perp. The area is canvassed. K-9 even tries to track, but the trail goes dead. No physical contact was made between victim and the suspect; no words were exchanged. Emily is sobbing, panicked, and terrified. You do a thorough investigation, like you did last night for an almost identical case two blocks away.
Voyeurism is the act of experiencing sexual excitement/arousal by observing people who are naked, disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity. Voyeurism may be accomplished with the naked eye, by use of an instrument (periscope, telescope, binoculars), or cameras (film camera, video camera, or mobile phone). If these practices are done with a consulting adult it is not considered abnormal or illegal. However, when the person(s) being viewed are unaware and/or non-consenting, voyeurism becomes more sinister. It also becomes a crime.
Modern technology has allowed voyeurism to evolve exponentially over the last few decades. Not only can a person be watched unknowingly in private moments, but also filmed. You may have been in your bedroom, riding up an escalator, trying on clothes in a dressing room, using a public bathroom, working out at the gym or in a hotel room on vacation when you were photographed. Your images could potentially be broadcast in countless websites.
Peeping Toms and Tonyas
Ever wonder where the term “Peeping Tom” came from? It is from the legend of Lady Godiva. As you no doubt recall, Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry, England to protest high taxes. She asked the townspeople not to look at her in the nude but one man, a tailor named Tom, just couldn’t keep his eyes shut. The tailor, who became known as Peeping Tom, was struck blind (or dead depending on the version) the moment he saw her.
Voyeurism is substantially more common in men, but can occur in women. It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood. Voyeurism frequently becomes pathologic, and the individual spends a considerable amount of time, and sometimes money on surveillance equipment, to seek out viewing opportunities. When severe, the act of peeping constitutes the exclusive form of sexual activity. The disorder tends to be chronic.
Orgasm is usually achieved by masturbating during or after the voyeuristic activity. Voyeurs are not seeking out sexual contact with the people being observed; they want to watch, they want to remember, they want to climax on their own.
Statistics and demographics are not readily available related to voyeurism. While only a small percentage of voyeurs will go on to commit worse crimes; voyeurs can become increasingly aggressive. Voyeurism can be a prelude to breaking and entering, harassment, stalking, rape, etc. 95% of rapists and sexual murderers have displayed voyeuristic tendencies.
Voyeurism and Mental Illness
In our society, voyeurs have ample legal opportunities to look at the naked bodies or watch the sexual activity of consenting adults. There are an infinite number of pornographic magazines, videos, and computer links. So why can some creeps only find sexual arousal from watching unsuspecting individuals’ nude, in a state of undress, or engaged in a sexual encounter with someone else? Voyeurism is considered a psychosexual mental disorder. It is one of many paraphilias.