We need to stop treating indecent exposure as simply a ‘nuisance’ offence


As a baby, I used to be taught to chortle if I stumbled throughout a man who was indecently exposing himself.

My experiences rising up replicate a wider societal view that indecent exposure will not be a severe sexual offence. The older stereotype is of a comical “flasher” in a lengthy overcoat lurking within the bushes. These days, when ladies log on to strive to make significant connections, they danger getting an undesirable dick pic. Whether the “flasher” is offline or on-line, we’re inspired to chortle about it.

Women are conditioned by society to see these experiences as humorous and the boys as pathetic. But it actually isn’t one thing to chortle about. The actuality is that these incidents make ladies really feel susceptible, violated and unsafe. Indecent exposure is, subsequently, a severe concern for girls.

It additionally turns into a severe concern for society if culprits go on to commit contact sexual offences and violence. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating three allegations of indecent exposure made towards Wayne Couzens prior to the evening he kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard. Of these, two are associated to incidents alleged to have taken place simply three days earlier than the homicide. It seems that these incidents weren’t taken critically or formally investigated by police on the time.

In the course of my analysis, I’ve been reviewing all of the accessible literature on indecent exposure from the previous 30 years. I discovered a tendency to describe indecent exposure as a “nuisance” offence. When the Law Commission was making an attempt to replace the authorized framework in 2015, its evaluation included references to “flashing” – language that suggests that legally we nonetheless aren’t viewing indecent exposure as a severe and sexual crime.

Crucially, victims won’t consider the incident is severe sufficient to be reported, which wouldn’t be shocking provided that we’re all taught from an early age

Indecent exposure was solely formally categorized as a particularly sexual offence in 2003. Before then, it was legally outlined inside the Vagrancy Act of 1824. This act steered the offence was dedicated by “rogues and vagabonds”.

So, up till comparatively just lately, if you happen to’d been a sufferer of indecent exposure, you wouldn’t have been seen as a sufferer of a sexual offence. This is shocking, provided that indecent exposure includes the intentional exposure of the genitals. The sluggish shift in laws displays that indecent exposure is simply simply beginning to be taken critically.

And but it’s a prevalent offence. Although official statistics recommend that indecent exposure will not be quite common, research undertaken with victims persistently recommend in any other case. A current YouGov survey discovered that nearly one in 5 individuals had skilled indecent exposure.

The actuality for victims

This contradiction between official statistics and sufferer research might be defined by the truth that ladies simply don’t report the crime. There are numerous the reason why they won’t go to the police. They may be traumatised and unwilling to revisit the expertise or they may worry for his or her future security after reporting somebody.

Crucially, victims won’t consider the incident is severe sufficient to be reported, which wouldn’t be shocking provided that we’re all taught from an early age that indecent exposure will not be a massive deal.

A tribute picturing Sarah Everard. Her killer is alleged by three different ladies to have uncovered himself


There is proof that some victims don’t report indecent exposure as a result of they lack confidence within the system. If society continues to view indecent exposure as a “nuisance”, then ladies will proceed to really feel reluctant to report their experiences to the police. This means they are going to carry across the psychological hurt and worry that indecent exposure creates in silence.

Re-offending and escalation

Despite under-reporting, the analysis tells us that males who indecently expose themselves have excessive charges of re-offending. The largest consolidation of related analysis steered 25 per cent, on common, go on to commit additional offences of indecent exposure.

These excessive re-offending charges embrace some exhibitionists escalating into different sexual acts. Men who indecently expose themselves can go on to sexual offences involving bodily contact, as seems to have been a part of the image with Couzens.

To be clear, Couzens will not be consultant of the standard man who indecently exposes himself however he’s a reminder of the worst-case state of affairs. What occurred to Sarah Everard demonstrates why we should always take one of these offending extra critically.

When we determine indecent exposure, we have no idea who will go on to commit contact sexual offences. The present analysis base doesn’t agree on how and why this escalation happens. Men who indecently expose themselves are a different group with a wide selection of motivations. This lack of clear proof makes the punishment and rehabilitation of males who indecently expose themselves harder. However, it doesn’t detract from the need for indecent exposure to be correctly investigated, punished and handled.

And as lengthy as victims stay reluctant to report one of these offence to the police, we can’t get an correct image of how usually indecent exposure happens. Ultimately, society as a complete doesn’t take indecent exposure critically. This is regardless of the numerous psychological influence it has on victims – and the potential for offenders to go on to commit different crimes. Perhaps it’s time to stop laughing.

Jennifer Grant is a educating fellow on the University of Portsmouth. This article first appeared on The Conversation

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