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Posted on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 6:02 a.m.

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

By Rich Kinsey

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


Angela Smith

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 7:41 p.m.

Thanks for the strong reminder to close the blinds -- I'm doing it now!

Rich Kinsey

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 4:22 p.m.

I think many of you missed my point today. I want to keep people safe and this is just one aspect. Please read my August 26th contribution - - if you felt this was an unbalanced piece. You are correct, acquaintence rapes are far more prevalent in Ann Arbor, but stranger rapes can terrorize a city. Why don't we all get together and try our best to prevent ALL sexual assaults. Education and discussion are the best ways to bring attention to the issue and hopefully prevent tragedies in the future.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 1:50 p.m.

SafeHouse Center (, Washtenaw county's domestic violence and sexual assault support organization, supports survivors of stranger sexual assault as well as survivors of sexual assault perpetrated by current or former acquaintances, dates, partners, or spouses. It is true that the vast majority of rapes are committed by an individual known to the person being raped and as a community we must hold offenders of these crimes accountable and educate one another on how these crimes can be stopped. Rape is a serious problem in Washtenaw County (as well as around the world) and more attention to all forms of stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault is essential.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 1:28 p.m. a victim of stranger rape when I was younger and acquaintance rape by an ex-husband [that didn't show bruising like a beating would]...I know only too well the stigma associated with both types...most rapists are repeat offenders as well...and it's good parenting to teach your children to say no and to speak out but why hasn't there a focus on teaching kids to not rape????


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 11:02 a.m.

To state the obvious, just because someone knows you doesn't mean they won't look in your window. My niece's ex-boyfriend was found hanging off the side of her building staring at her through her second floor window. I think a good number of the peepers know their target in advance.

Jordan Miller

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 9:27 a.m.

I agree that it's good advice to cover and lock your windows. But I also agree that the headline is hyperbolic, and there is a degree of fear mongering in here that actually dilutes from the part of the message that's important. For example, what does "FBI profilers told me that even serial killer Ted Bundy traveled through Ann Arbor while he was on his murderous hunts" have to do with voyeurs and rapists? Let's not forget that, for women, the word "rape" is incredibly powerful and frightening, and should be used with utmost caution.

Chuck Warpehoski

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 9:23 a.m.

djm, yes, all bases should be covered, but it's a question of focus. With the stats that Laura gave, stranger rape is only 20% of the problem, but it seems to get a vast majority of the focus. I think the "shame on" comments come because we should be putting more attention to where more of the problem is. If we want to focus on where the real problem is, we won't stress out as much about leaving our doors locked all the time. Rather, we'd teach our children to speak up and say no when they feel uncomfortable. We would teach them that it's OK to talk about it when something bad has happened to them. Better yet, we'd teach everyone these Sexual assault prevention tips guaranteed to work.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 9:04 a.m.

I totally agree with d83. It's one thing to offer sound advice, but shouldn't all bases be covered?

Laura Bien

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 8:57 a.m.

"Rape by strangers and acquaintances:" "Most college students who are sexually assaulted are victimized by someone they know. Although stranger rapes occur, acquaintance rape is by far the most prevalent form of sexual violence among college students." "In the 'Rape in America' study, 80% of the girls and women who were raped were assaulted by someone they knew. Similarly, in a report in 'Violence Against Women' published by the Department of Justice, 82% of the victims were raped by someone they knew (acquaintance/friend, intimate, relative)." --from UCLA Medical Center Rape Treatment Center website:

Larry Kestenbaum

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 8:30 a.m.

Agreed that he uses the word "rape" to mean "stranger rape", but that doesn't mean stranger rape is no problem. The advice to keep your shades closed at night is sound.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 7:43 a.m.

I agree. Shame on for allowing this hyperbole about an important issue.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 7:39 a.m.

"All rapists have been voyeurs?" Really? ALL of them? It's too bad Rich Kinsey perpetuates the myth that the only rape that counts is stranger rape, when in fact the vast majority of sexual assault occurs among acquaintances. Date rape and partner rape are much bigger problems than stranger rape across college campuses, but they rarely go reported. Indeed, criminologists have again and again shown how non-stranger rape, though it is more common than other forms of rape, is among the least reported crimes in the country. I wonder if part of the reason they don't go reported is because when people like Rich Kinsey talk about "rape" they only ever mean "stranger rape," thereby implicitly devaluing the experiences of victims of non-stranger rape, who make up the vast majority of rape victims. If "all rapists" are creepy voyeurs who climb in through your windows to rape you, does that mean that the boy at the party who slipped you a roofie, or the boyfriend who continued even after you said "no," isn't a rapist? Rich Kinsey at least implies so. Shame on