As windows open to let in the summer breeze, reports of Peeping Toms are on the rise with up to 10 incidents being reported to New South Wales police each week. Here's what you can do to stay safe.
The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and summer is here. That means throwing the windows wide open and walking around in as little clothing as possible to beat the heat, right? Well, that might be the case in the privacy of your own home, but it pays to be aware of what's going on outside your windows as well especially when it comes to "Peeping Toms".
Also known as a "peep and pry" offender, a Peeping Tom is a stranger trying to get a glimpse into houses especially ones that have unsuspecting females walking around in them. Yes, it's a scary reality, but before you freak out, Inspector Eddie Bosch, Duty Officer at Sydney's Waverley Police Station, says you CAN protect yourself if you know what to look for...
Who's doing the peeking?
Offenders tend to be predominantly male, and although there's the perception that Peeping Toms are older men, clinical psychologist Katie Seidler reveals this problem can involve teenage guys as well, particularly ones who are exploring their attitudes towards sex. "[This behaviour] can come from inadequate relationship skills and it can be a confused form of dating behaviour," explains Katie. "It's like trying to get someone to like you or notice you in the hope that they think you're attractive."
While some teen Peeping Toms might think their behaviour is simply harmless peeking, some offenders know what they're doing is wrong but continue to do it anyway. "I think it's more likely that adolescents will be clumsy and more confused about sexual boundaries," says Katie. "But, generally speaking, most people do know right from wrong they know when their behaviour is inappropriate."
Spot an offender
Peep and pry is more likely to happen in the warmer months when people have their blinds and windows open, says Eddie adding that the majority of offences happen at night-time and in built-up areas. "Peep and pry tends to happen in higher housing density like apartment blocks, particularly with ground level units where people can walk onto the property easily and without being questioned," he explains.
It's a situation Sarah*, 16, is all too familiar with after she spotted someone trying to take a peek into her living room one night. Opening the window to get some air, Sarah was getting comfy on her couch to watch a new ep of Pretty Little Liars when she noticed a man standing on her front lawn. "I looked over to the window and out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone standing in our garden," she says. "I thought it was my neighbour watering the grass, but it was a stranger he just stood there. I looked out and the second he saw me come to the window he disappeared. I drew the curtains and told my mum."
Are there any real dangers?
It's definitely an uneasy sitch to be in, but Katie explains that a Peeping Tom's behaviour is often unlikely to escalate into something more intrusive, like entering the house. "It seems to be highly opportunistic for the most part, so offenders see a window or they walk past somewhere and notice the opportunity," says Katie. "They're usually hoping the victim will derive some pleasure or think they're attractive after seeing the offender. As soon as they get that [negative] shock response which is not what they anticipated, then they'll run."
However, Eddie stresses how important it is to contact your local police station if you have any concerns. "Police can obtain fingerprints off windowsills and examine the area. They will treat it as a serious matter," he says.
While Sarah never saw her Peeping Tom again, she says the experience has made her more careful, adding, "I'm more aware now and make sure the curtains are drawn if I do leave my window open for long."
Protect against Peepers!
• Check how visible you are to people outside your house. Get someone to stand inside while you suss the perspective from the viewpoint of a passer-by. Is it easy for them to catch a glimpse of your every move? Chat to Mum or Dad about better blinds/curtains if so.
• Keep windows locked when you're home alone, just to be on the safe side.
• Be especially careful of having blinds open at night draw them when the sun goes down!
If you're still feeling unsafe, get in touch with your local police station or with the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for helpful tips.