‘Intimidating and horrifying’: One victim of indecent exposure in York speaks out

Where it happened: the path leading from the University of York campus towards the Retreat. Photograph © Google Street View
23 May 2019 @ 7.12 pm
| Crime, News

A victim of indecent exposure in York has spoken of how the experience left her feeling angry and ‘very intimidated’.

The woman spoke to YorkMix the day after police revealed they believe at least five incidents of indecent exposure are linked, and might be by the same man.

Laura is a University of York student. We are not giving her full name to protect her identity. She was walking home from a talk on campus with a friend when it happened.

And she is speaking out to encourage other women to report the crime – after being made aware that it could have been going on for years.

Targeted young women

Laura was walking along the path from the campus past The Retreat towards her Heslington Road home at 7.30pm on the 17 April when she noticed a man standing by the fence.

At first they thought he was urinating, and were surprised he was doing so in broad daylight. She told YorkMix:

  • Then as we got closer he maintained eye contact with us as we realised that he was actually masturbating in our direction.

    Once I’d realised what he was doing I shouted “what the fuck?” at him as we walked past but we didn’t stop. He then very pathetically said “oh sorry” but didn’t move.

The man did the same thing to another woman who was walking along the same path a little further back.

Laura contacted University of York security. “They prompted us to call the police ASAP because it’s a crime taken very seriously by the police.

“We called 111 but found out later that this crime actually warrants a 999 call.”

Location chosen carefully… there is no CCTV on the route

Anger and horror

The crime left Laura feeling shaken, and anxious about using a path to and from campus that hundreds of students take every day. She said:

  • I could feel the anger in my chest and we both felt very intimidated using that pathway again, which we have to use to get to and from campus.

    I was frustrated that men think that it’s acceptable to do such a thing, and angry that he was acting like he’d done nothing wrong.

    The entitlement and confidence that he carried with himself whilst doing it was horrifying, and just reflects how little regard men can have for women in scenarios like this.

She described the perpetrator as

  • in his late thirties
  • of medium build
  • with no facial hair
  • and wearing a tracksuit.

Because he had his hood up it was difficult to make him out in more detail. And the lack of CCTV on the pathway has frustrated the investigation.

Supportive police

Photograph: YorkMix
Laura was impressed by the police response.

“The police were great, so supportive and thorough and went to lengths to make myself and my friend comfortable in the process,” she said.

“Every officer that we encountered was friendly and made sure we were looked after.

“They advised that we don’t use that pathway alone but that’s impossible because hundreds of students use it every day to get to uni.”

It then emerged that this sort of offending has gone on for years. Two of the policewomen Laura and her friend spoke to had studied at the university, and said similar incidents were common on campus during their time there.

Take it seriously

Laura’s main motivation for talking to YorkMix was to encourage other victims to speak up “if they are comfortable with this and it’s safe for them to do so”.

She said:

  • Indecent exposure is a crime that can send someone to prison for up to two years, and is taken extremely seriously by the police.

    This is because it often precedes cases of more serious assault and act as a kind of ‘testing the water’ for more violent assault.

    If more women speak out about flashing then the university may take it more seriously and implement measures to help keep women safe when they’re walking to and from uni.

    There have been many cases in the news recently about exposure happening in these quiet lanes that lead to residential areas from campus and it is terrifying how common it is and how long this has been going on for.

    It’s time for men to stop getting away with it.

University response

The offences took place around Heslington and the university area and on a footpath off Windmill Lane. Photograph © Google Street View
A University of York spokesperson said: “Any student who comes forward will be offered appropriate support from our specially trained staff in a safe and confidential environment.

“Our Open Door team provides emotional and psychological support for students alongside a number of other support services, such as our College System, Chaplaincy team, Student Union welfare and advice, and Nightline and Night Safe.

“Students can also speak with our security team about the SafeZone app and best practice for keeping safe.

“We continue to liaise closely with North Yorkshire Police regarding the indecent exposures and have increased our security patrols in the area and issued advice to staff and students.”

Police “are working hard not only investigate and identify the suspects but also to provide a reassuring presence in the area”.

If you can help their investigation get in touch on the numbers below.

north-yorkshire-police-logo-25How to help the police

Call North Yorkshire Police on 101 and select option 1
Contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via the website
Quote reference number 12190087384