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I’ll always regret not turning in my Peeping Tom

It seemed harmless enough at the time. I was getting ready for bed when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Reflected in the mirror was the beveled window behind me, where something wasn’t right.

I turned and saw the form of a human being. Even as hard as it was to see through the beveled glass, I could tell there was a man’s face pressed to it. He had dark hair and appeared fairly young.

I ran.

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We called the police, but my Peeping Tom was long gone by that time. I went on with my life, trying to put the incident behind me, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was fully dressed, so the Peeping Tom didn’t see anything, but I still felt violated.

Flash-forward to a week later. We were invited to our next-door neighbor’s house for a cookout. Several other neighbors were there as well. As we stood on the back porch, socializing, I noticed a teenage boy seated in the corner, staring down at the ground as though avoiding eye contact with everyone.

I realized instantly he was the Peeping Tom.

As the cookout progressed, I learned the boy’s parents were the nice couple we’d been speaking to when we first arrived. There were only a few houses in the neighborhood at the time, so it wasn’t much of a coincidence. When asked, they told another couple they lived across the street.

I weighed my options. I could pull the boy’s mom aside and voice my concerns, but I’d just met the woman and that seemed extremely awkward. I could wait until the party was over and tell the host, but she was a good friend of the boy’s mother. Would she be just as offended?

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In the end, I did nothing. I assumed peeking into windows was relatively harmless behavior and went on with my life. I moved out of that house soon after, so if the boy kept peeping it was somebody else’s problem. Right?

But over the past decade, I’ve become a true crime fan. While reading a book on Ted Bundy, I was surprised to learn that experts believe he may have started out as a Peeping Tom. In several of her books, Bundy’s friend Ann Rule mentions the fact that many violent criminals start out that way, especially those whose crimes are sexual in nature. What if my failure to report my neighborhood Peeping Tom led to someone being hurt or killed?

My concern led me to do a little research. While it turns out that many rapists and sexual murderers have voyeurism in their past, most voyeurs never progress to a more serious crime. There are no guarantees, but I read that to mean my Peeping Tom may have never done anything more serious than spy on women.

I can’t go back and change things, but I do wonder how I could have handled things differently. Not knowing the boy’s parents, I never would have felt comfortable approaching them directly, and passing it through the neighbor would seem gossipy. Without proof that their son was the one who had been spying through my window, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have believed me anyway.

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Still, I can’t help but worry to this day that maybe my inaction led to someone being hurt later.

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