The State College Police Department arrested a man early Tuesday morning in connection with breaking into two different apartments in the Palmerton building while naked.
One woman told police she turned on the light in her bedroom and discovered a man on the floor masturbating. Another woman from a different apartment in the Palmerton said she was sitting on her living room sofa when the same naked man entered her apartment before fleeing the scene. A man faces four felony and four misdemeanor charges, including burglary, criminal trespassing, indecent exposure and open lewdness in connection with the incidents.
The response to the reports of this incident were concerning, and this situation should make us all reconsider how we view issues like sexual harassment or assault in the larger picture.
Some Penn State students tweeted about how funny it was that police said a man was masturbating in a woman’s bedroom, for example.
Before students start joking about instances involving open lewdness or harassment, though, they should stop to consider the larger implications of a casual response to such reports.
Instances like this could often be viewed as less serious than they actually are because most readers have no direct connection to the people involved.
But try to consider the people who are important to you. If a complete stranger intruded upon your mother’s or sister’s bedroom, it would not be something you would make a joke about.
The same thing goes for what’s often regarded as a “less severe” issue — street harassment. Think about how you’d feel if those comments we often hear walking down the street at night in State College were instead directed at a female family member or friend. And, of course, the same goes for comments directed at men — no matter who’s the target, being the recipient of unwanted advances or exposed to an unwanted sexual encounter is a traumatizing experience in any case.
In general, the response we see to reports of sexual harassment indicates complacency.
We see this, too, when incidents of sexual assault are regularly reported by the same news media outlets but receive little attention from students for just that reason — because seeing a report of sexual assault has not become anything out of the ordinary.
The way we respond to issues like yelling at someone on the street or exposing someone to another person’s genitals only further desensitizes us to both issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Since Aug. 27, local police have fielded 17 reports of sexual assault, including two during winter break. Outside of the report earlier this week, there have also been plenty of instances of sexual harassment — both reported and unreported.
If you ask those who were harmed in those cases, we’re sure they would find little to laugh about.