Opinion: Not all voyeurs are rapists, but all rapists have been voyeurs


October 19, 2009

Window coverings, shades, curtains and blinds are crucial for your home. Used when you're away, in conjunction with lights and light timers, they give the illusion that someone is home.

And when you're home, make sure you close your blinds at night. Most of the sexual assault seminars I've attended listed closing shades as extremely important in deterring sexual predators.  

When my career started, it was believed a window peeper was just a relatively harmless individual looking for a “free show.” The clinical term for this paraphilia (i.e. abnormal sexual behavior) is voyeurism. 

In the last 25 years, criminals have been interviewed for criminal profiling studies, and researchers have learned almost all rapists and serial killers started their criminal “careers” with various levels of window peeping. I agree with Vernon Geberth, author of Sex-Related Homicide and Death Investigation, who says not all voyeurs become serial rapists or killers - but all rapists have been involved in window peeping as they criminally evolved.

Many sexual predators said when window peeping became routine, they needed more thrilling behaviors to become sexually stimulated. Their actions would escalate to burglary when residents weren't home, to cat burglary when people were home, and eventually to sexual assault. The importance of window coverings can't be over-emphasized.  

Even if you live on an upper floor, keep your windows covered because you can be seen from other buildings or ground level in many instances. We once caught a guy on Packard Street near Arch who had climbed a tree next to an apartment building to peep in the window of a woman who lived on the third floor of the building.

Voyeurs will actually hunt for windows without shades. Several years ago, a man traveled up from Ohio several times a month until a south side hotel’s security spotted him in an adjoining parking lot with binoculars trained on the windows of the hotel. He was identified and released - to my knowledge, he hasn't been back to Ann Arbor, but chances are he just went somewhere else.

Ann Arbor is a college town, and the presence of college females draws peeping toms from other communities into the off-campus housing areas near the downtown. Over the years, many of the voyeurs caught have come from outside Ann Arbor. FBI profilers told me that even serial killer Ted Bundy traveled through Ann Arbor while he was on his murderous hunts.  

The first serial rapist prosecuted using DNA evidence in Washtenaw County, back in 1989, would prowl the streets of Ann Arbor at night looking for open windows and prospective victims. Closing shades, curtains and blinds at night are an important deterrence to prevent sexual assaults.

KEEP IT LOCKED, DON’T LEAVE IT UNATTENDED, BE AWARE (that voyeurs might be watching if you don’t cover your windows) AND WATCH OUT FOR YOUR NEIGHBORS.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com