Sunday Mornings with Rania: The Issue of Indecent Exposure
As a community, we are aware that sexual assault can occur in a variety of places like on dates, in bars, nightclubs, college campuses and more. We know that, by definition, sexual assault involves the intentional touching of someone, without consent, and the forcing of some type of sexual act. While many endure those horrors, most recently, we have heard an overwhelming number of reports of women who are being violated in a completely different way, and it was shocking to hear.
These attacks involve no contact. They also take place in public places like grocery stores, on airplanes, at the library, the movies, the park or more. They look something like this: woman out and about minding her own business while stranger fixates on woman while “satisfying” himself in public.
The most recent story that came my way was hard to hear. A Houston woman was with a colleague having a work meeting in a public place. She noticed a man staring her down “into her soul.” She very quickly realized that the man was pleasuring himself as he stared. The victim naturally screamed. The suspect fled but was caught shortly afterward.
Within the hour, this woman learned more about this issue and how it’s on the rise in Houston. She called me asking what she and others can do or should do in these situations. She also asked why it’s happening in increasing numbers. We have data on both.
Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public or in view of the general public by a person of a portion or portions of their body, in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior.
If sexual acts are performed, with or without an element of nudity, this can be considered gross indecency, which is usually a more serious criminal offence.
What You Can and Can’t Do in Response:
- You can scream.
- You can legally take a photo of the suspect (and you should, if you can do so safely).
- You can and should report it immediately to the establishment you are in and file a police report with local law enforcement. (Note: Many public places have security cameras, which are helpful in these cases.)
- You cannot hit the suspect, touch the suspect or throw anything at the suspect – no matter how violated you feel.
- Use your voice - make sure these people get caught and stop doing what they are doing.
- Afterward, if you need support, please reach out to a mental health counselor.
But why is this happening?
There are different opinions here. Some suspects have mental health issues. In the case that led to this post, the suspect was found with drugs on him and may have been on drugs. There’s also a change in our culture that thrives on immediate and often harsh sexual gratification – and that rests in the booming pornography industry. Take a look at these numbers from a 2018 report:
- Twitter is home to an estimated 10+ million pornography accounts.
- Pornography sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon & Twitter COMBINED each month.
- 35 percent of all internet downloads are porn-related.
- In 2016 alone, more than 4,599,000,000 hours of porn were consumed online.
- It is estimated that Americans now spend somewhere around $10 billion a year on adult entertainment, which is as much as they spend attending professional sporting events, buying music or going out to the movies.
Inherent within these numbers lies the problems affiliated with pornography consumption. Science and research agree: repeated viewing of pornography leads to a damaged view of relationships and an increased need for immediate sexual gratification that can no longer be easily achieved via a normal sexual encounter. Instead, they are longing for more aggressive situations or a more dangerous context for gratification (i.e., self-pleasuring in a public space while using an innocent bystander as a focal point).
It’s horrific. But it’s happening. Parents, talk to your young adult children about these risks and give them the tools to handle any scenario that might (hopefully never) come their way. And parents, let’s also talk about the dangerous of pornography consumption. Not only does it set men and women up for unhealthy views on romance and sex, but it also causes physiological issues in young men. More and more studies are finding that over-exposed boys suffer from ED at younger and younger ages.
This is as awkward as it gets when it comes to dinner conversations at home. That said, for the sake of all of us, we must be talking about it. As for the women who have endured this type of assault, many are rallying in support. Even if a hand was never laid, the victimization is real and leaves an impact.
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