Indecent exposure is a type of sexual assault. It is an unwanted sexual crime committed against a person without their consent.
It is an offence that can be carried out by either men or women, in public or private. Sometimes it is referred to as flashing.
The offender may repeatedly expose intimate parts of themself to you, or it might be a one-off incident. You may or may not know the person.
Many victims find indecent exposure unsettling and frightening. It happens suddenly, can be over quickly, usually leaving victims in shock and distressed.
Indecent exposure may also be part of a family violence and harm situation. You might like to visit our family violence and harm support section, or our sexual violence support section.
If you have been a victim of indecent exposure you are not to blame for this crime, the perpetrator is.
Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
Report the crime to police
Your safety is their highest priority. Police can give you advice on how best to respond to this situation and keep safe. They will advise you on how they can investigate and find the perpetrator.
Call police on 111 immediately if you think you are in immediate danger of harm, or someone else is.
Call the police non-emergency number on 105, or go online to report what has happened to you or others you know.
Go to your local police station and talk with the person at the front counter. They will advise you about what to do. You may be able to speak to an officer straight away. Consider taking a support person with you. Find your closest Police Station here.
If others witnessed what happened, ask for their contact details and pass these onto police.
Give a statement
The police will interview you and ask you to give a statement to assist their investigations. Your information could help in a criminal court case later.
- A police officer will write down or record what happened. After a traumatic experience, people’s memories can be a bit foggy or uncertain. Things that happened can seem like a blur. Take your time and do your best.
- What you say must be true. Giving police false information is a serious matter.
- You’ll be asked to read it through to check it’s correct and sign to confirm it’s an accurate report of what happened to you.
Support the investigation
Police will investigate the case. This can take some time and they may need to interview you again. They will keep you updated on the progress of their investigation.
If there is a court case
Police will be in touch with you to talk about the court process and invite you to give a Victim Impact Statement. They will explain what giving evidence will involve if you are to be a court witness. Police will also let you know when and where you may be needed to give your evidence. Sometimes there can be delays in a court case, so they will let you know if that happens. internal link to Victim Impact Statement. PDF from Going to Court
Find ways to increase confidence in your personal safety
Use the tips police suggest in their booklet Keep Safe, Feel Safe. Taking these actions can help increase confidence in your personal safety and security, and that of your family and whānau.
Give yourself time to recover after this traumatic experience
See below for some common reactions and ways to cope with them.
Everyone’s different and will react in their own way
Many victims are unsettled and disturbed by what they saw and can experience strong reactions to what happened. Common emotional reactions include shock, confusion, distress, a sense of being violated, anger, rage, guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, and fear. They can also find themselves more anxious and on alert in case something like that happens again.
The incident is likely to have happened suddenly and so fast that it may be a blur. Remembering details about the perpetrator might be difficult. The memory of what happened can continue to be very distressing. It may cause disturbing mental images, nightmares, or flashbacks, as if it’s happening all over again.
Physically victims will often experience shock reactions, including shaking, a racing heart, a tight chest, difficulty breathing, and nausea. Ongoing reactions can include headaches, body aches, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite. You may feel more anxious about going out on your own. Indecent exposure can make the world around you feel less safe.
These kinds of reactions are all normal
However, they might affect you more, and for longer, than you expect. See some tips below for coping with your reactions.
Looking after yourself is important
After the stress of what’s happened, make time to take care of yourself well. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.
A flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted member of your family, whānau, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Victim Support Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional. Talking honestly about how things are can help release the stress and emotional tension inside
More tips for coping with your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions, please see:
Your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event
Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come.
If they don’t lessen or get worse and disrupt your daily life and work, it is best to seek the help of a professional who has experience supporting people after trauma. Some people may, develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have concerns, see your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask your Support Worker about help that is available to you.
If your reactions trouble you
Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, or depression.
Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the consequences the crime has had.
If you need to find a local doctor, counsellor, or psychologist, please click here.
We are here for you 24/7
Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. Please call us on 0800 842 846 (24/7) to be connected with a Support Worker.
Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
What we can offer
Our Support Workers can support you with:
- someone to listen, talk with, and support you to cope through trauma and loss
- help to understand your rights and make informed choices
- information and help to answer your questions
- help to access local support services and counselling to suit your situation
- someone to assist and support you at court trials, hearings, and dealing with police and other government agencies
- help to prepare Victim Impact Statements and attend family group or restorative justice conferences
- financial assistance for victims of serious crime.
We are committed to providing quality support to strengthen the mana and well-being of all those affected by indecent exposure.
If English is your second language
If you require support in your first language, Victim Support can use Ezispeak to connect with an interpreter over the phone. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 and let us know. We will try to match you to a Support Worker who speaks your language.